Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part XIII - Assassin Season - Chapter 8
Chapter 8: Battle Under the Keep
Donatello led the way down the dark stairwell. Not too far behind him was Lloyd and the swashbuckler’s female warrior companion, Kara. After them came Elvisda and Aksel, and Glorfindel with the young lady of Restenford, Andrella. Next in line was Martan and Seth. Bringing up the rear were the theater folk including the kobold Balmarrow, Willis, Phillis and the three stagehands Marvin, Wilbur and Arthur.
Up front the swashbuckler was trying to be extra cautious. After all, they were raiding the Assassin’s Guild, which was ostensibly run by the Mayor of Garrotten, whose keep they were now infiltrating. And the Mayor had a staff of magic user’s at her disposal and was also a powerful wizard in her own right. All this played through the elf’s mind as he carefully made his way down the stairwell.
About 100 steps down, the stairs ended and a long corridor opened up in front of them. Donnie peered ahead but couldn’t see all that much by the light of Glorfindel’s staff. But he really didn’t want more light anyway. That would only make him a sitting target for any assassin’s that might be lurking around down here. The swashbuckler was extra stealthy moving down the corridor. There were no doors on either side as he went along. After about 60 feet he began to see an opening up ahead. 30 more feet and the corridor ended in a large circular room.
Directly in front of him, the elf saw two stone statues of women holding swords in front of them. AS he slowly made his way into the room, the statutes began to move! Crap, Donnie thought to himself, why do these things always happen when I hang with these folks? But there was little time to reflect on that as the statues were both coming at him swords raised to strike.
The swashbuckler quickly reached over his shoulder and grabbed his quarterstaff. Then he launched himself forwards and tumbled between the two advancing figures. They both swung their swords at him and missed. But as the elf rolled between them, he stuck out his quarterstaff and caught the statue to the right with the end of it. The statue had half turned after him and his staff struck with the force of his momentum as he tumbled past. The additive effect unbalanced the heavy stone figure causing it to fall over to the ground.
“See, even stone women fall for me!” Donatello quipped as he rose to his feet and turned around. Elvisda’s groan could be heard from the corridor.
But it was quickly drowned out as Lloyd and Kara both charged in swords in hand. The warblade leapt at the standing stone figure, taking one huge swing with his main hand. The blade came flashing down as the stone statue attempted to block the swing with its other arm. But between Lloyd’s strength and the keen adamantine blade, it sliced right through the stone figure’s arm shearing it clean off its body. As the warblade landed behind the statue he said, “You’ve been disarmed!”
“Doh!” Elvisda wailed, smacking his head with his hand, “not Lloyd too.” Seth who had moved up towards the front couldn’t help commenting, “Yes. I’m afraid so. He’s been Donnie-ized.”
Meanwhile, Kara had moved in on the statue Lloyd had just sliced, and hit it with her sword. But the stone figure had turned around after Lloyd. It ignored Kara’s attack, and went after the warblade swinging it’s sword with its remaining arm. But Lloyd easily parried the attack. At the same moment, the other statue had gotten back to its knees and took a swipe at Donatello with its sword. But the swashbuckler neatly back flipped out of reach.
Then two purple missiles came wooshing out of the corridor directly at the statue inbetween Lloyd and Kara. The wound their way past the warrior woman and careened into the stone figure. There was the sound of twin concussion as they connected and then the statue crumpled to the ground in pieces. The warblade looked down the corridor and saw Andrella standing with her finger still pointing at the now downed statue. “Oh yeah…” she began when suddenly a loud gong sounded. “So much for the stealthy approach!” Seth commented.
The remaining statue had gotten to its feet. But Donatello was ready. He charged in and connected twice with his quarterstaff. As the stone figure turned to face him, Lloyd attacked it from the rear, dealing a devastating blow which cause the statue to crack and crumble where it stood.
They looked around but there were no more opponents and no one else seemed to rushing in to attack them. “Maybe no one heard the giant gong,” Donnie commented quietly. “Oh, I’m sure they heard it,” Seth replied. “They’re probably lining the corridors right now setting up traps and ambushes for us.”
“Do you want to go first then?” Donatello asked the ninja. “No, I’m good,” Seth replied throwing up his hands. “Well then,” Aksel said stepping in, “guess we have no choice. They know we’re coming but it’s too late to turn back now. Be ready everyone.”
Donatello took the lead once again. There was another corridor on the opposite side of the room. The swashbuckler slowly moved forward into it, Lloyd and Kara behind him as before. The other’s followed close behind. About 30 feet down, the passageway dead-ended. Donnie searched around and quickly found a secret door. “It’s got a trap on it,” he whispered to Kara. “Tell everyone to stay back.” Then he went to work on the trap mechanism. It didn’t seem too complicated, Donnie thought. There was a fairly standard spring loaded device. I just need to ease it off the switch, and….crap, it got away from me! The swashbuckler jumped back as green gas started pouring into the corridor.
“Run!” Donnie yelled as gas covered him and he started coughing. Kara started to move forward, but Lloyd grabbed her and dragged her back. Seth yelled, “Everyone clear out! I’ve got this!” Aksel looked questioningly at the ninja. Seth seeing the look replied quickly, “Poison immunity belt.” Then he ran forward into the greenish cloud to rescue the overwhelmed swashbuckler.
“You heard the man, run!” Aksel ordered. Everyone turned and hurried back to the circular room. A few seconds later, Seth came out of the cloud dragging Donnie with him. Kara grabbed the swashbuckler’s other arm and they dragged him across the room. The gas clouded followed them starting to fill this room as well.
They quickly looked over Donatello whose skin had turned green. “He really doesn’t look good,” Aksel pronounced. Then Glorfindel stepped forward saying, “I have something which will help.” The wizard quickly took off his backpack and rummaged through it. He drew out a vial and said, “Hold his mouth open.” Kara reached down and pried open the swashbuckler’s lips. Glo unstoppered the vial and slowly poured the liquid contents into his friend’s mouth. Donatello choked a bit, at first but then his skin began to lose its greenish hue. In a few seconds he started to stir. Aksel leaned forward to examine the elf. “That did it,” he pronounced after a few seconds.
“Um, guys,” Seth said, pointing back at the growing poison gas cloud, “I think this whole room is going to fill up. “Quickly everyone, back towards the entrance,” Aksel commanded. Kara lifted Donatello and put his arm over her shoulders. The swashbuckler smiled wanly at her having recovered consciousness. Then the entire group slowly backed down the 90 foot corridor. But the gas did not stop following them.
“How much of this stuff is there?” Elvisda cried as the party began to slowly back up the stairs. “I think we are going to end up outside,” Aksel said. “Seth can you go see if anyone is out there?” The ninja nodded and ran ahead disappearing from sight. A minute later Seth’s voice could be heard. “There is movement on the battlements above. They’re sure to see us if we go outside.”
“We can fix that,” Balmarrow announced. He turned to Willis and Phillis and the two stage folk went ahead to the door to the outside. Then Willis cast a spell. White fog began to appear at the opening and then billowed outward. In seconds a large white mist enveloped the door and most of the surrounding area. Then the illusionist stepped aside and Phillis stepped forward to cast her own spell. The party watched from the doorway as the images of figures appeared to run out of the mist and into the trees beyond. A few seconds later, voices could be heard from the battlements above. “There they go!”
After that, everyone emptied out of the doorway and moved to both sides of the entryway, careful to stay in the mists Willis had created. Green gas came streaming out of the door but quickly dissipated into the air. After about five minutes, they heard Seth’s voice once again. “All clear in there,” the ninja reported. “Just in time,” Aksel said breathing a sigh of relief, “The mist is starting to disperse”.
The companions all filed back into the stairwell and again closed the door behind them. They made their way down to the bottom of the stairwell. Once there, Elvisda held up his hand. “Wait a moment if you all please.” Then the bard began to play a soft tune. They all recognized it immediately by now. It was the song to inspire confidence. When he was done, the group felt much better. They all began moving down the first corridor and into the circular room once again.
They crossed the room quietly but as they reached the other side, a bolt of lightning suddenly flashed down between them from the other corridor. They heard the crack of thunder as they were all hit. Then Willis fell to the ground. Andrella was also hurt, but Glorfindel caught the young girl before she could fall. One of the stage hands, Marvin, also was badly hit, but the other two stagehands caught their friend.
Donatello reacted immediately taking out a knife and throwing down the corridor where the bolt originated from. They heard a cry as their eyes recovered from the flash and saw a female in blue robes with a knife sticking out of her arm duck back behind an open door and slam it shut behind her. “Nice throw Donnie!” Elvisda said. Meanwhile, Aksel had moved over to Marvin and Seth had gone over to Andrella. Both of them began to heal their respective “patients.” Phyllis and Balmarrow, knelt by the unmoving Willis. Silent tears streamed down the lady wizard’s cheeks.
Lloyd was angry. “I’ve had enough of this!” he declared hotly. “I’m with you!” Kara cried. Elvisda and Glorfindel gathered around the two fighters and the swashbuckler both elves casting spells simultaneously. Within seconds both fighters had been enraged and hastened. Then all three of them ran up the corridor with Glorfindel and Elvisda right behind. As Donatello grabbed the door, Kara reached back and took out her bow. She knocked an arrow and stood ready. Then Donnie swung open the door.
They peered into a 15×30 foot room. There were 4 people inside, 2 in robes standing back behind some overturned tables. As the door swung open, two daggers came flying out as well as a red hot beam of light. Both knives caught Lloyd and the scorching ray hit Donatello. At the same time, a door in the back right of the room slammed shut and they could hear the sound of a bolt falling into place.
Kara immediately let loose an arrow in retaliation. It lit up in flames as it left the bow and caught the caster of the ray square in the chest. The mage fell to the ground unmoving. Then Lloyd, really angry now, charged in attacking one of the assassins. Glorfindel quickly stepped into the doorway, took a bead on the second wizard and let loose a magic missile barrage he had been incanting. As the projectiles careened towards their target, the lady Andrella was suddenly standing next to the elf wizard. She too had been preparing a spell and let it loose at the same target before the first missiles had hit.
Both barrages caught the hapless mage before he had known what was happening. He fell to the ground in a heap. As Lloyd engaged the one assassin, the other began to sneak behind him. But Donatello quickly leaped in and stood with his back to the warblade. “Oh no you don’t!” the swashbuckler yelled parrying the assassin’s attack. The warblade and swashbuckler stood back to back and quickly dispatched their adversaries. When they were done, Lloyd turned to Donnie and said, “Thanks!” The swashbuckler grinned up at the big man and replied, “Don’t mention it.”
Kara walked in behind them grinning. “Nice job fellas.” Both men actually blushed a bit at the attention from the intoxicating blonde. Glorfindel, Andrella and five Elvisdas then entered the room. As they all looked at the bard, he replied, “What? You can never be too cautious.” They all laughed at that. Then Andrella walked up to Lloyd and began pulling the daggers from his arm. “Don’t these hurt?” she asked. “Not really,” he replied sheepishly. “They never made it through my leather armor.” Then Kara asked Donatello, “How about you? That ray caught you straight on.” The swashbuckler smiled and said, “Guess we elves have tough hides,” but the scorch mark on his chain mail belied his answer.
Then Seth came in from the corridor. “Looks like I missed all the fun.” They turned to the little ninja and Donnie said, “Oh, trust me, there’s sure to be more.” He pointed to the bolted door behind him and added, “Can’t wait to see what they have behind door number two over there.” Seth grinned and answered, “Well, there’s only one way to find out.”
After a quick pow-wow, it was decided that Donnie would open the door. Seth, invisible would enter the corridor and Elvisda would have one of his images stand as a target in the doorway. Everyone else would stay back in the first corridor. After the rest of them had filed out, Donnie nodded to the other two and opened the door, Seth disappeared and leaped up into the corridor and onto the ceiling. The corridor, however, was filled with a funky looking cloud and nothing could be seen beyond it. As Donnie stood there, he began to smell a bad odor. “Stinking cloud,” he announced.
As he finished speaking, the cloud suddenly lit up and a ball of flame burst through it. As it passed through the door, Donnie quickly dodged out of the way. The flaming ball went straight for one of Elvisda’s images and exploded. Both Donatello and Seth were unscathed. The bard however did get somewhat scathed from the blast. Luckily he had been behind one of the overturned tables or it could have been much worse.
Elvisda took out a wand of healing he had acquired back in Lukescros. It was a novelty he had taken a liking to. It was shaped like a candy cane and as you licked it, it would heal you. The bard licked it now. Donatello looked on and could not help from laughing. Elvisda looked back at the swashbuckler and smiled. “Want a lick?” he asked impishly. “No thanks,” Donnie replied stifling another laugh, “I’m just fine.”
Out in the corridor, Seth climbed along on the ceiling. He past the stinking cloud and found a closed door at the end of the hallway. Seeing no sign of anyone, he dropped down and listened at the door. On the other side he clearly heard a voice saying, “Don’t let them through.” Then he heard footsteps coming towards the door. Seth jumped back up to the ceiling and began crawling back up the corridor. He heard the door open behind him and a man and a half-orc, dressed in chain mail, enter the hall.
Seth quickly crawled up ahead of them and dropped into the room. Donnie and Elvisda were there and Kara had joined them. “Two fighters, coming up the hall,” Seth warned them. Then he launched himself back into the corridor and crawled along the ceiling. Elvisda stood up and peered down the hall. The stinking cloud had almost dissipated, and you could clearly see the two figures advancing up the hallway. The bard quickly cast a spell of grease under them and the man lost his balance and fell. The half-orc, however, ignored his companion and continued to advance.
Seth, seeing his opportunity, dropped down on top of the fallen man and stabbed him three times with his knives. It was over quickly. At the same time, Kara lined up behind Elvisda and let loose a flaming arrow at the half-orc. It caught the creature dead in the chest. The half orc grunted, but pulled the flaming arrow out. Then it continued coming forward and reached one of the remaining Elvisda images. The half-orc took a huge swing with its sword and sliced through the image making it wink out of existence.
Then Donnie, jumped from behind the door and threw a knife. The dagger embedded itself in the half-orc’s sword arm. The creature almost dropped its sword, but then reached over with its other hand and pulled out the blade, throwing it aside. As the dagger clattered to the ground, the half orc continued its advance, almost reaching the doorway. Kara had another arrow knocked when the half orc suddenly arched its back, screamed once and sagged to the ground. As it hit the floor of the corridor, the others saw the little halfling, Seth, standing behind the creature, dagger still in his hand and a broad smile on his face.
“Nicely done,” Donatello said admiringly as the ninja walked back into the room. “I try,” Seth replied obviously pleased with himself. Then he and Donnie began to search the bodies of the assassins, wizards and the two fighters in the room and the corridor. They found that all of them had black amulets around their necks. They gathered up the amulets and placed them on a table in the room. As they were examining them, Lloyd, Glo, Andrella, Aksel and Martan joined them.
“Where’s Balmarrow?” Elvisda asked. “He is staying behind with Phyllis,” Aksel told them. “She does not want to leave Willis’s body. I told Winky and the other stage hands to stay with them.” As they were talking, Andrella had walked over to the table. She saw the black amulets and decided to try one on. Too late the others saw what she had done. “Andrella don’t…” Elvisda began, but the young lady already had the amulet around her neck. Her body abruptly stiffened and her eyes went glassy. “Mistress wants me,” she said and began to walk towards the other corridor. But before she could get three steps, Lloyd grabbed her. “Andrella!” the warblade cried.
“Hold onto her Lloyd,” Aksel commanded. Then the little cleric began a spell. When he finished, a white circle appeared in a ten foot radius around the group. Andrella relaxed and her eyes refocused. “Lloyd, take the amulet off of her,” Aksel said. “What happened?” the young lady asked as the warblade removed the amulet from around her neck. “The amulet is evil,” the cleric replied. “You were put under a spell.” Andrella looked at the amulet now in Lloyd’s hand. Then she pushed it away. “Lloyd, please destroy that thing.” Lloyd took the amulet over to the table and put it with the others. “Actually I’ll do one better,” the warblade declared. He took the hilt of his sword and smashed each amulet, one by one. When he was done, all that was left was pieces of the evil jewelry.
Andrella went over to the big man and put her arms around him. “Thank you,” she said, kissing him on the lips. When they let each other go, the young lady turned to Aksel and said, “And thank you.” The little cleric nodded and replied, “Your welcome. I think we should be moving forward now. The longer we stay here, the more time they have to gather their forces and lay more traps.” Everyone agreed.
This time both Donatello and Seth moved to the front of the line. The party made its way to the end of the corridor. This time there was no sound from the other side of the door. Donnie opened the door and Seth snuck in on the ceiling. He looked around and found a Z shaped corridor with 4 more doors. There was one door on the left, then the corridor took a quick right and there was a door on the right. Then one quick left and there was a third door on the right. Finally, the last door was at the end of the hallway.
Seth came back and reported to the others. Everyone entered the hallway and lined up. Then Seth and Donnie listened at the first door. They heard shuffling on the other side. Everyone got ready then Donnie opened the door. Seth turned invisible and quickly jumped up into the corridor and on the ceiling. As the ninja looked down he saw a huge figure come running down the hall towards the open door. It was an ogre! As it passed underneath him, the little ninja dropped down behind it, leapt forward and stabbed it in the leg. At the same moment, Donnie tumbled forward and also stabbed the ogre from below, catching it in a very vulnerable spot.
The ogre, caught off guard, roared in anger and pain. Then it was hit straight in the chest by a ray of searing light and two flaming arrows. Then the ogre made a fatal mistake as it looked up and roared once again. Lloyd launched a devastating attack on the creature. He leapt through the doorway and hit the creature with a maneuver called the bone splitting attack, aptly named because it was designed for maximum impact on a large opponent. There was a loud cracking sound as the warblade connected with the large monster. As he swept by it, the ogre’s knees shook. It was all the thing could do to stay standing. Then two purple missiles came flying through the door and hit the ogre right in the chest. The monster stopped moving for a moment and then collapsed to the floor, dead.
“Nicely done team,” Aksel said softly, as everyone gathered back in the Z shaped corridor. They decided to close the door with the dead ogre for now and move on down to the other doorways. Elvisda and Martan stayed behind to guard the door as the others moved forward.
Seth listened at the next door around the corner. The little ninja heard the sound of wood dragging across the floor. Seth tried the door but it wouldn’t budge. Then Kara stepped forward and straining, pushed the door open a couple of feet. The ninja then peaked around the door and saw a 15 × 30 foot room with seven humans in it; 3 in robes, 2 in full plate and 2 in chain mail. Seth backed up and told the others what he saw. Then Glorfindel stepped forward. “I got this,” the wizard said. He began to cast a spell. The other’s recognized it immediately as the fire ball spell. As the ball was about to let loose, Glo stuck his hand through the door and unleashed it. Then the wizard stepped back and Kara slammed the door shut.
From behind the door, they clearly heard an explosion and screams. When it was done, Seth pushed the door open and leapt up onto the ceiling inside the room. Then Kara and Lloyd charged the door and knocked it down. The furniture piled up behind the door went flying in all directions as the door came off its hinges. Inside the room, the three robed figures were all down, but the four armored figures were still standing.
As Kara and Lloyd prepared for battle, the two doors down the hall both opened. Out of the door at the end of the hallway, a man in gray robes stepped out and sent a lightning bolt careening down the hallway. The bolt hit Glorfindel, Aksel, Lloyd and Kara. As the others whirled to face their new attacker, Donnie, who had dodged the bolt, whipped out a dagger and threw it down the hall. But the wizard managed to dodge the knife, which then embedded itself in the door behind him. Aksel, however, conjured a spiritual mace and sent it flying down the hall at the wizard, sending him sprawling backwards. Then someone behind the door slammed it shut.
Glorfindel, hearing movement coming from the second door, began to conjure a lightning bolt of his own. Then he stepped in front of the open door and let it loose through the doorway. The wizard caught a glimpse of 3 figures in armor in the room. Two immediately dropped as the bolt connected with them. But the third dodged out of the way. Then Kara pushed herself in front of the wizard and attacked the third man, dispatching him quickly.
At the same time, Lloyd, back in the other room, charged the four fighters. He whirled into them getting off three slashes before the other men could move. The first man dropped dead to the ground. Seth, who had been crawling across the ceiling, dropped down behind the men and fatally stabbed another fighter. The man also fell to the ground dead. The remaining two assassins launched themselves at Lloyd, swinging at the big man with their blades. Lloyd deftly parried the attacks and launched into another whirlwind attack on one of the men killing him in two quick slashes. As the last man turned to flee, Seth caught him with his knives. It was over quickly.
Seth and Lloyd joined the others back in the corridor as Donnie listened at the door at the end of the hall. The swashbuckler heard heavy beams dropping against the door. As the ninja and the warblade came running up Donnie told everyone what he had heard. “I’ll handle this,” Lloyd said angrily. The huge man set himself and then launched his entire body at the barred door. As he connected with it, the hinges strained and then gave way. The entire door shattered inwards, supporting beams flying across the room.
Inside, four men, wearing tabards with the insignia of Garrotten stood with their mouths open looking incredulously at the hulking warblade. Behind them were a wide set of stairs going leading upwards.
As Lloyd rushed forward, Aksel yelled, “They’re only castle guards!” Lloyd grunted his acknowledgement. Rushed into the midst of them, he knocked the blade out of one man’s hand and hit a second man with the hilt of his sword, knocking him unconscious. The other two men threw down their weapons and went running for the stairs, the third man right behind them.
Aksel examined the unconscious man verifying that he was still alive. Then Seth tied the man up. Lloyd and Kara stood guard at the stairs. “What if they come back with reinforcements?” Lloyd asked. “I think you scared the heck out of them,” Seth replied. “They’re probably halfway across Thac by now.”
Meanwhile, Donnie was examining a door to the right of the steps. He listened and heard a voice inside say, “Maybe they won’t come in here.” He gently pushed open the door and found a man in a cook’s outfit and two maids. They looked extremely frightened. “We won’t hurt you,” the swashbuckler said sympathetically, “just come out here quietly.” The three people slowly moved forward and out into the larger room. Aksel came up and asked, “Who are you?” The man replied haltingly, “I am the cook. These are the maids.” Aksel nodded and then asked, “And where do those stairs go,” pointing to the stairwell the guards had run up. “Th…those lead up into the keep,” the cook stammered. “You aren’t going to kill us are you?” Aksel smiled. “I am a cleric of Garglittergold. There will be no killing of innocents while I am around.”
Just then Elvisda came walking into the room. He heard what the cook had said. The bard walked up to the man, reached into his purse and handed him a gold piece. Then he handed gold pieces to each of the maids. The bard then said, “This is an evil place. I want you all to leave her and never come back. Go to the Golden Golem Inn in Restenford. Ask for Shalla. She will give you a job.” The man looked at the two maids, then at the gold piece in his hand, then back at the bard. “Th…thank you,” he stammered. Then he and the maids slowly backed away and went up the stairs into the keep.
Aksel turned to the bard and said, “Nicely done. Now what are you doing here? I thought you were guarding the door.” “I was,” the bard replied, “but Winky just showed up. He said he saw something big waiting outside by the door where we entered the keep.” “Well, we’ll just have to deal with that when we get there,” the cleric replied. “Right now let’s rejoin the others.”
When they all got back to the door where the ogre’s body lay, Balmarrow had joined them. They had moved Willis’s body into one of the side rooms off this corridor, and Phillis and the stagehands stayed there to watch over him while Winky stood guard outside in the hall.
The rest of the party decided to explore down the last corridor. They had still not found the Baron’s heart and it was now well past midnight. Donnie and Seth led them down to the end of the corridor where they found a locked door. The swashbuckler easily picked it. As he opened the door a crack, Seth peered inside. “Guys, I think the Assassin’s Guild is more evil than we originally thought,” the little ninja whispered.
Aksel, now disturbed, moved forward and pushed open the door. Behind it stood an underground temple with pews and an altar with flames on either side. Behind the altar stood a large, evil looking statue. It was a demon.