The Missing Sorceress (TS)
For earlier instalments in the story of the Hole Under the Tavern Floor, see the aborted TS Hole in the Tavern Floor, and the following posts from the Tavern VI: #32, #36, #44, #52, #89 and #90. Also, Tavern VII, post #137.
At the first creak of straining timber, Sideline reflexively dived under the table. Ordinarily, that would have been a good move. Unfortunately for him, the weight of the falling building was too much, first for the table, then for the floorboards. In quick succession, they groaned and snapped. Sideline was left pinned with his head dangling beneath the floor, and his legs sticking up in the air through the mass of debris.
"Ow," he said.
"Hey," he continued in a muffled voice, "there's something down here! Somebody dig me out, so we can get a proper look!"
It wasn't as simple as that, of course - many people were trapped, and it was some time before enough of them were freed to make it worthwhile attempting to extricate Sideline from his predicament.
Once he was out and his scrapes and bruises had been seen to, the Scribe poked his head between the broken floorboards.
"Can you see anything?" Sideline called.
"Not yet. Just a moment..." The venerable elf wriggled the arm in which he held his staff down through the hole as well. " Calan! " he called, and a bright light shone up through the gaps in the floor. "Ah, I see it now! There's a larger circular hole down here. Arrows have been shot into the walls, as if to form a path!" He pulled himself back out of the hole, and seated himself in one of the few remaining intact chairs. " Duath! " he said, banging the bottom of his staff on the ground. The light went out.
"Well, what do you think, grandfather?" Brianna asked, having returned, once more clothed in her tunic and breaches.
"Most intriguing," the Scribe commented. "Definitely worth looking into, I think - I might even come along, this time."
Sideline organised a few able bodied men to rip up the floorboards over the hole.
"Better let me go first," Brianna teasingly observed to Sideline. "You know what your eyes are like in the dark." With that, the half-elven ranger lowered herself into the dark.
Several patrons gathered around the ragged hole in the tavern’s wooden floor, watching as Brianna slipped into the darkness beneath the surface. Away from the crowd, near the center of the tavern floor, stood two men in stark contrast; the fading rays of day light still gleamed off of Aron’s polished armor while the wind flowing freely through the gaping maw that was the roof ruffled his fine crimson cape. The same wind continued through the room, flowing around the second man and tugging upon the many small torn patches of his dark robes. The fleeting sun did little to brighten the dark figure; the stretching shadows that fell across him seemed to greet Rythan more readily, making him seem like the man that the Light had forgotten.
The pair had stood there, speaking quietly after having helped to free the other patrons and clear as much of the debris as they could. At least, Aron spoke as Rythan listened quietly. The dark figure glanced sideways at Aron as the softly gleaming warrior donned his helm, then looked back towards the entrance to the cave that had been discovered under the floor boards, “Do you think that will be necessary?”
The helm fit Aron perfectly as he made a final adjustment with his left hand. He smiled as he lifted the small polished mask to his face and placed it before his nose and mouth, with a barely audible click the armor locked into place, completing the suit. His sapphire eyes, his only visible feature now beneath the armor, glanced over to his dark counterpart, “I very much hope it will be,” he glanced over to the crowd and chuckled lightly, “I’ve very much enjoyed my conversation with Steam, but I’d not like to cross swords with her.”
Rythan followed Aron’s gaze to learn of whom the man spoke, his expression didn’t change as his eyes of red and blue fell upon the azure Elvin woman though he did say something casually before walking away, “Wise.”
The mirrored warrior called to the dark assassin as the later strode silently over to the group, “Where are you going?”
Rythan raised his right hand and waved without turning around, then sinuously slipped through the crowd leaping into the darkened hole without pause. The soles of his soft boots lighted upon the ground with barely a sound though his landing sent a small ripple of dust across the floor. It had been some time since last this place was traveled. The Elvin woman Brianna remained in the small cavern, apparently studying the arrows in the walls that served as way points, aided by the light of some sort of spell. Rythan left from the shadows, melding away from them in a way that made it seem they were unhappy to see him go, “What have you found?”
Brianna glanced back ay him, startled. "Oh, uh, there's a large, round hole going deep down into the ground. Someone's shot arrows into the wall in a spiralling pattern, so that they form a kind of staircase. Further down, I can just make out a real stone staircase beginning where the arrows leave off. There's also a faint blue light coming from a sidetunnel, but I can't see what's projecting it."
She held out a hand. "I'm Brianna, by the way."
This post has been edited by cache22 : 04 March 2007 - 04:53 AM
The question (uttered in shock) had come from behind a greying beard. The owner of this beard was an elderly man who sat in possibly the only chair not upturned in the chaos. Before him were the splintered remains of a table, a peice of cake and a cloak, white fur complimenting the small size of the garmet.
The elderly man stood in alarm and ran straight from the tavern into the street, shouting his query with a raspy voice "Olivia? Olivia!? LIV!?". The man burst into a fit of coughing, and, stuggling to catch his breath, passed out.
When he awoke the man was staring into the eyes of a worried Tavern patron. He sat and began his questioning anew "Olivia? Have you seen my grand-daughter?"
The Tavern patron shook her head and pointed towards an even older man clasping a staff and sitting straight. "He might know what happened to your grand-daughter,he's a regular."
The elderly man leapt to his feet and, after steadying himself, strode purposefully towards the Scribe.
"Sir! My name is Adrian. A young lady pointed me towards you, said you were a regular and might know what was going on. Do you know what happened to my grand-daughter? She was sitting opposite me when this damn tavern collapsed. Have you seen Olivia?"
This post has been edited by Avatara : 09 March 2007 - 04:21 PM
Silverfish slipped into the group, ready for another quest.
Katerei last edited by
After watching the commotion for a bit with some interest, Katerei stepped out the back way and found an empty room. Once there, she changed out of her clothing and into a simple violet-covered travelling dress and black cloak. Stowing the rest of her gear back in her bag, she re-entered the Tavern proper and stood inconspicuously near the hole, waiting to see how things developed.
As the late afternoon breeze washed over the cavern’s entrance it howled, soft and airy, while traveling the expanse. The wind stirred Rythan’s robes gently while the youthful Elvin woman before him extended her hand in greeting, “I’m Brianna, by the way.” The mystical light within the cave glittered in her emerald-green eyes and cast shadows over her dark hair as it flowed down the entire length of her back. Her well cut tunic and breaches were green as well, fit for hard travel or even battle, should such be necessary.
Rythan extended his hand, the blades upon the gauntlet dissolving into black flame tinged with crimson that disappeared altogether as he accepted Brianna’s greeting. He inclined his head to her slightly, speaking softly, “Rythan.” and then looked down at the large hole near their feet as he released his grip, focusing on the downward spiral of meticulously placed arrows. He crouched down at the very edge of the chasm, a black flame gripping his right hand once more as his serrated blades reformed upon his gauntlet. Near the stone stairs far below he could see the faint blue light which Brianna had spoke of as it poured out from an unseen source. He glanced over to the dark haired Elvin woman as she studied the strange tunnel with him then gazed back into its depths, pondering whether the arrows were enchanted to hold a person’s weight or if another method would have to be used to descend into the pit.
The Scribe focused on the man that had addressed him. The word 'granddaughter' struck a resonant chord within him; he himself was exceptionally close to his own distant descendent, Brianna, and frequently called her by that label. More than that, he considered that she very much was his granddaughter, in every way that counted.
"My dear fellow," he cried, leaping spryly to his feet, which seemed odd to those who'd frequently observed him leaning heavily on his cane as he walked. "I'm afraid I haven't seen her. However, the floor appears to have collapsed in several places, and perhaps she fell through. We have people down there already - why don't you could call down to them, and ask them to look for her?"
This post has been edited by cache22 : 26 January 2007 - 02:49 PM
Rythan rose fluidly, turning away from the pit Brianna had discovered and striding silently back into the shadows. Light filtered down from the ragged hole above, where many patrons were gathered in interest. Rythan’s ghostly image escaped the shadows once more, stepping softly into the pool of light and gazing up at the gathered people, “The tunnel is deep, you will need ropes; a ladder if one may be found.” Without waiting for a reply the deathly robed man blended back into the darkness as he stepped back into the cavern.
Brianna glanced up from her study, her jeweled green eyes holding no surprise this time as Rythan approached. The dark figure stood at mouth of the tunnel once more, gazing down into the darkness… and then he leapt off. As Rythan fell through the silent pit, his torn robes fluttering madly with the rush of his rapid descent, he drew back his fist and delivered a solid punch to the cave wall before him. The sound of the impact reverberated up through the cavern as his gauntlet blades sliced cleanly into the wall, banishing some of the darkness in a shower of sparks and slowing Rythan’s fall as he tucked his legs in slightly to press the blades of his shin guards against the stone surface. Drawing back his left fist he repeated the action, and as he drove the second pair of gauntlet blades into the wall he slowed to a stop.
Using his shin blades to retain a strong hold onto the cavern wall Rythan withdrew his right fist and stabbed into the stone a bit further below, he went on to do the same with his left, and continued his downward progress with his shin blades, one at a time. The sharp sounds of him stabbing into the stone echoed through the cave and no doubt carried upwards as he quickly descended through the tunnel.
Abruptly his right leg met air as he attempted to lower himself further. Looking down he could see a small offshoot of the cavern, and a ledge just below him. Removing his blades Rythan dropped quietly to the ledge, peering into a small chamber, undecorated save for an ornate pedestal with an ancient tome lying open atop its surface. Rythan looked over the edge of jutting rock on which he stood, judging his distance to be a little over half way down the shaft by how much closer the stone steps were. Glancing upwards he could see Brianna high above, though he could not make out her expression.
The chamber appeared to be simply that, no more than a small stone room that had been carved into the cave, with a single piece of furniture at its very center as the only decoration. Rythan leaned back against the side of the crude archway leading into the room, deciding it to be as good a place as any to wait for the others to gather while keeping an eye out for possible dangers lurking in the shadows below.
After Selax had gone, Rapierian descended into the hole in the floor and dropped lightly to the floor. He was curious about what waited at the bottom.
"It echoes in here," he noted and smiled. This gave him the means to do one of his favorite things, although if anyone were down there they'd hear it. He decided to wait on laughing because he didn't feel quite like antagonizing anyone at the moment. He walked over next to Brianna and looked down. "Nothing but those arrows?" he asked, not sounding pleased.
Brianna glanced up at the dark mage with distaste and replied, "So it seems."
Rapierian leaned against one the cavern's walls, deciding to wait for a few moments before proceeding down. He began to consider how else he might reach the bottom; he didn't really wish to use the arrow-ladder.
Far below, in the deepest darkness and undetected by even Rythan (so far), a dark presence waited.
Sometime ago, the daemon Kitran had been thrown down here by Silverfish with the aid of several Tavern patrons. The fall had injured him badly but had not killed him. He had not been important enough to his master to bother healing and removing, so he had entered a trance state, in which his body would heal and he would rest until disturbed.
Something had disturbed him. Humans and others were entering this area.
Ordinarily, he might have attacked them at once, but he was not unaware of the events that had happened in his rest. His master had left Cythera, and the Chimaera had returned, resuming their age-old war. Prudence was dictated. Kitran would be patient and would be ready when the time came...
This post has been edited by Selax : 09 March 2007 - 01:13 AM
Brianna shrugged at Rapierian's comment. She really couldn't understand why everyone seemed to so worried about how to get down. Without further hesitation, she stepped over the edge of the shaft, and ran lightly down the arrow-staircase; the arrows hardly even quivered at the delicate pressure of her feet. In no time at all, she was standing in the alcove with the ancient tome.
"Grandfather," she called up the shaft, "you really should come and see this!"
The words of Brianna, floating disembodied up the shaft, almost sent Adrian to tears. He bit his lower lip, squeezed his eyes shut for a second and stepped timidly towards the edge of the shaft. He could see several figures moving dimly at the bottom.
"Excuse me!" he called.
The adventureres in the pit looked up at him questioningly.
"That young girl's name is Brianna." the Scribe added helpfully.
"Brianna!" Adrian yelled, his voice echoing almost immediately.
"How can I help you?" came the reply, dry and airy.
"I'm missing my granddaughter. Her name's Ol-" Adrian's voice broke into a half sob, choked back at the last moment. "Her name's Olivia." he continued. "She's only seven, unable to fend for herself. If she came to harm I... I don't know what I would do. This gentlemen up here suggested I ask you to take a look around."
Brianna was silent for a moment; there was almost certainly no little girl in the small alcove. "I'll have a look. Could she be somewhere else in the tavern?"
"She was sitting in a chair right over that hole. I'll take a look elsewhere though."
After a thorough search of the Tavern and the surrounding streets, now approaching darkness, Adrian concluded that Olivia must be down the hole somewhere.
The Scribe tested the arrows with his staff and nodded to Adrian, "It should be fine once you get to the staircase."
Adrian descended hesitantly, his pants catching on the rough walls of the hole. Upon reaching the staircase the elderly man steadied himself and called to Brianna.
"Is it safe to come down?"
Rapierian finally decided what to do. He summoned the "shadows," not to burn but to carry him. The "shadows" could be used in a variety of ways, but it was not easy. They were hard to control and what he planned to do was quite dangerous.
He called them to him and stepped off of the edge. Shadows gathered around him and slowed his descent. The black-cloaked mage dropped into the shaft, surrounded by whirling shadows.
Rapierian began to howl his mad laughter, which echoed off the walls and filled the cavern with the uncanny and unnerving sound.
At last, he stood on the ledge next to Brianna, where he staggered and fell. The shadows vanished. Weakly, the necromancer managed to take a potion and stand up.
It had taken a lot out of him, but his control of the shadows was improving...
This post has been edited by Selax : 09 March 2007 - 01:13 AM
Silverfish slithered down the wall of the hole, and helped steady Adrian.
This post has been edited by Jehezekel : 27 January 2007 - 10:04 AM
The Scribe dropped lightly to the ground next to Rapierian.
"How did you -" the necromancer exclaimed, glancing up the length of the shaft. There was no way the elderly elf could have climbed down all that way in the short time it had taken Rapierian to plummet.
"I levitated, of course," the Scribe replied, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
Rapierian digested this piece of information. He might have to revise his opinion; the ancient fossil might not quite be the useless old relic he'd thought him to be.
The Scribe joined Brianna and examined the ancient book.
" 'To those who might one day read this spellbook, I say this: There once was an age when mighty kings ruled. A day when the greatest warriors would fight to the death, and the world would be devestated, until another arose. Sadly, this day ended with the coming of the Tyrants. I was a mage who lived in these dark tunnels. Here, within this spellbook, is my life's work: ...' " he quoted. "That's where it ends, it appears the remainder's been torn out."
"What, no powerful spells?" Rapierian grunted in disgust. "What a waste."
"Since there's nothing more here," the Scribe continued, I suggest we move on down toward whatever's emitting that blue light. Aron, I'm sorry there's no sign of Olivia - perhaps she went further on."
"It's such a pretty blue," Brianna commented dreamily, as she move on down the stone stairs.
Soft footfalls echoed from the top of the darkened shaft. Brianna, her hair streaming behind her, raced gracefully down the spiraling trail of arrows set into the walls as if they were sturdy stone steps. Stopping to stand before Rythan, giving him a questioning glance with her vibrant green eyes as if to ask why he had not come down the same way. She studied the room briefly, an inquisitive light coming to her eyes as they fell upon the pedestal and tome within the small chamber.
As the Elvin woman called up to the elderly man from earlier, Rythan studied the arrows she had lighted across to reach him. Whether the arrows were enchanted, or whether the youthful woman simply had the skill and balance to perform that feat, Rythan could not say, though it did not matter. Had the arrows themselves been magically altered his boots would have nullified the enchantment, causing him to plummet down the shaft, and if the woman was truly skilled it skill would not have helped him, as that was not where his own talents lay. He did however note the possibility of Brianna being the wielder of such gifts.
A voice called down from above, dry and nearly rasping, belonging to a very old man, as far as Rythan could tell. The soul addressed Brianna, requesting her aid in finding his granddaughter, a very young girl who had been in the tavern before its collapse and had gone missing in its aftermath. Brianna agreed to search the chamber that she and Rythan now shared. The dark figure had already searched it before she arrived, but there was no reason to rule out the possibility of his missing something. Unfortunately, Brianna also found nothing, suggesting the girl might still be in or around the tavern.
Time passed, with Brianna studying the ancient chamber while Rythan maintained his careful watch of the darkness below. As the elderly man’s voice descended once more he asked if it was safe enough for him to come down, confirming Rythan’s belief that the child had yet to be found.
Another figure appeared at the head of the caverns entrance, with a dark and narrow countenance. Rapierian seemed to step right over the edge of the chasm as if to jump down, but they shadows extended to him, flowing over and around him in a dark swirling torrent and his fall was a slow graceful one; he cackled with a mad laughter the entire way down. Finally his feet touched lightly upon the ledge, but as the shadows dissipated he staggered and fell to his hands and knees, holding himself up shakily with sweat upon his brow as he took ragged breaths. From somewhere within his robes the dark mage produced a potion, and as he drank of the elixir his strength was returned to him, allowing him to stand.
Rythan looked between the two who stood with him in the chamber, turning his ruby and sapphire gaze to the elderly man who slowly descended from above with the aid of another. Everyone seemed safe enough he, and both Rapierian and Brianna had proved their abilities to handle themselves so… Rythan pushed away from the wall he leaned against and walked over to the ledge, looking down through the darkness at the stone steps below that were shaded by a faint blue light. He spoke without turning around, “I will scout ahead.” And then he leapt over the side of the edge.
He needed speed now as he rushed down the dark shaft towards his goal, if danger lurked there it was already aware of his presence and that of the others, a slow drop was not an option. His robes fluttering with the speed of his fall Rythan slashed at the dark wall to his left with his gauntlet blade only a half a score of yards from the stone below. As his blades sparked against the stone and left it riven with their passing the maneuver only served to slow his drop, it could not stop him. The moment he touched down upon the stairs he rolled forward and fluidly rose to his feet in a single motion, holding his blades at the ready. His eyes were ever adjusted to darkness, and he scanned to shadows cautiously as though expecting an ambush of some kind, which he partially did. However no danger approached him that he could see, and the only sounds within the chamber were those that filtered down from above.
After a time Rythan looked over his shoulder and saw Brianna arrive at the bottom as well, seemingly captivated by something beyond him. He glanced back to see a glimmer of blue light coming from ahead, its source obscured to him by the stone wall.
Rapierian followed the rest down the stairs. As he reached the last step, he stopped and stood, frowning. Then, he shrugged and continued on.
Everybody stopped for a few moments, staring at the blue light source ahead. Presently, Rythan stirred and made his way forward toward the light. The others followed him...
Cat, Starfall and Kerran wandered over to examine the hole. At least, they would have wandered, if they hadn't had to climb over, under and around the wreckage.
After a while, Kerran asked, "Should we join them, perhaps? Mayhap they might require our skills."
The elves glanced at each other, and shrugged. "Sure." replied Starfall. "What else do we have to do?"
"The only problem is, how do we get down?" asked Cat. "I could probably climb down, but those arrows don't look too secure."
Kerran responded by taking a small pouch from his belt, opening it, and pulling out three pipes. He fitted them together, and said, "There we have it!"
"How will that..." Starfall began, but Kerran began to play on the instrument, very softly. The others waited patiently.
The faun stopped abruptly, said, "Follow me!", and stepped off the edge.
Cat looked over the edge, and saw him a few yards below, floating gently down. She took a deep breath, and followed.
Starfall watched as the only two people she really knew continued drifting down the hole. Gripping her staff tightly, she closed her eyes, and jumped.
After a few minutes, when nothing had happened, she opened them again. The cave wall was slowly going upwards. She knew better than to look down, so looked up instead, to the hole above, now a long way away.
I don't care how safe this is. she thought. I never want to do this again!
This post has been edited by CrazyChick : 26 January 2007 - 10:29 PM
Sideline returned from rummaging around in the Tavern's storerooms with a very large coil of rope over one shoulder. After squinting down the hole to check where the stone staircase began, he made short work of making the rope fast to one of the few remaining support beams, and tossed the coil of hemp over the side. He then pulled on a pair of worn, balck leather gloves, stood with is back to the hole, and looped the rope across the back of his thighs.
"Anybody else coming?" he asked, then jumped backwards before anyone could reply. A long, drawn out "Woohoo!" echoed back up the shaft into the tavern, as he rappelled his way down.
Katerei shook her head. "For a stealth specialist he sure is noisy," she muttered.
Sidline hit the bottom heavier than any of the others, except Rythan and perhaps Rapierian, but still with enough control to keep his feet. He quickly stepped away from the rope - he thought he might have felt the vibration of aomeone else decending on it, but he couldn't be sure. In any case, he didn't want to get in their way, if they were.
He waited a few minutes for his eyes to adjust. He could see in the dark well enough, for a human, but his eyes couldn't adapt nearly as fast as an elf's. He began to make out the pedestal shape of the book stand, and the prehistoric treatise the resided upon it. He didn't waste time trying to read it - that was the Scribe's department.
Keeping one hand on the wall as a guide, he quickly ran down the remainder of the steps and joined the others in the passage at the bottom. They were gathered around a glowing, blue elliptical shape, which hovered in mid air.
"No points for guessing what that is," he quipped.
Brianna stepped purposefully towards the portal. A hefty hand pressed into her stomach, holding her back.
" I will go first," Rythan declared, with quiet finality.
"And me second," Sideline added, drawing his sword. "No telling what's on the other side. And for pity's sake, get your bow out, girl!"
"Quite right," the Scribe concurred.
Brianna sheepishly unslung her bow and loosely held an arrow against the string.
Sideline nodded to Rythan. "After you," and the dark man leaped through the glowing orb of energy with Sideline close on his heels.
Whatever they were expecting to find, nothing quite prepared them for the reality. They found themselves in a cozy living area, complete with armchairs, tables, and even a roaring fire. There was no chimney over the fireplace, so it was just as well that whatever was burning on the fire produced no smoke. Closed doors in the side walls lead off to other, unseen rooms.
An old, robed man was pacing up and down in front of the fire, oblivious to their entrance. His face was contorted in a worried frown.
The Scribe, arriving close on Brianna's heels, assessed the situation quickly, and motioned the others to stow their weapons. When everyone appeared suitably non-threatening, he diffidently cleared his throat.
The old wizard (for such he appeared to be) jumped, startled. "Huh? What? Wazzat?"
"I do apologise for the intrusion -" the Scribe began.
"Thank goodness you're here!" the mage interrupted. "It's my assistant, Katherine - she's gone missing! Please, you have to help!"
This post has been edited by cache22 : 04 March 2007 - 04:54 AM
An akward silence followed the mage's statement, clearly drawn on by confusion. Adrian was the first to speak:
"Perhaps Olivia and Katherine are together? Two missing people in the one event..."
He was interrupted by the wizard. "Your assistant is missing too?! How much worse can things get?"
The Scribe then took charge of the situation. "This gentlemen is looking for his granddaughter, but perhaps he is right. You say you lost your assistant?"
"Lost my assistant? That's preposterous! That makes me sound like some dim-witted old man who can't keep track of his potions! I didn't lose her, she went missing!"
Another silence ensued. The wizard continued his rant "Well don't just stand there! I'm fairly certain gawking never helped find anyone."
"Well... Where did you last see her?" Asked one of the adventurers.
The wizard looked disgusted for a moment and sat in one of the arm chairs. He let out a large, exasperated sigh and began to explain.
"Katherine had just finished cleaning the last of my beakers, you see, they're always very dirty. It's because she burns the potions! I'm for ever telling her to turn the burners down, you see, quite a pyromaniac is my Katherine. You should have seen her when she was young! I mean, younger, obviously she's still young, or she wouldn't be cleaning beakers, she'd be brewing wine or something productive! I always told her that she should get into the wine business, those old salts haven't produced a good drop in, oh, I would say at least 30 years. She would be good, you know, very good at wine. All they need is a little knowledge of such things as alchem-"
Sideline interrupted the wizard's rambling monolog with a curt command:
"Start again. You say she was cleaning the beakers. What happened next?"
The wizard looked bewildered for a moment then broke into tears.
"It was probably my fault." he sobbed.
Brianna patted the wizard gently on the back. "Tell us what happened."