The Caverns of Kildun Aalda--Chapter Eighteen--Can We Dance?
“Is this Stephens’s chamber?” Bard asked, looking around the circular room.
“If it is,” said Britt, “he rather liked to live a simple life than like royalty.” Still this is a nice room.”
They had taken left the pool room and went back down the corridor where they had encountered the orc. Then they followed the next one to the west. At the end was a room that was different from the others they had so far explored on the upper level. First the walls of the room were curved. Second, the walls were covered in Stephan strips of finished pine wood.
George ran his hand over one of the strips, “I like this. While, it is simple and nothing fancy about it, I think it is very beautiful.”
“Yes, I think this is Stephan’s chamber,” Johanna said, studying a tapestry in on of the corners of the room. Measuring approximately seven feet wide and nine feet high, it showed a dragon with green, blue and red scales. A warrior had thrust a sword into its belly.
“Did Stephan actually kill a dragon?” George asked with his eyes wide opened. “Then he looked at the dragon again. “Is it me or does that dragon look like it is only three feet long.”
“There are dragons,” Britt said. “However, they are not the large monsters, people tell stories about. Three feet is actually large for a dragon.”
“Why do people fear them?” Bard asked.
“Because of their fire breath. Did you ever wonder why Antares is a town that is made of stone?”
“I never thought of it,” Bard asked.
“Fire does not burn down stone. Antares was built that way to protect its residents.”
Johanna spoke, “Different dragons have different types of breath. Some breath wind, some ice and I even saw a horde of dragons destroy a village with water.
Now it was Britt’s turn to be surprised. “I did not know that,” he said.
“If dragons are so small, why do people fear them?” George asked.
“Because they are like bees, they swarm. Luckily for us, they only travel in groups of two or three.”
“I have never seen a dragon,” said Eileena.
“They usually keep to themselves,” Britt answered. It is said that they are a dying breed. It is rumored that fewer that a hundred still exist. They usually attack if they are provoked. They are not necessarily evil.”
The second tapestry showed a battle in a mountain pass. “This must be the barbarian invasion,” Balon said. He ran his fingers over the colorful threads showing the great detail. “This is very beautiful work. Whoever, did this put a lot of time and effort into this?
“Hello,” said George, doing a wolf-whistle. “Who is this?” He was standing in front of a third tapestry.
“She is beautiful,” said Eileena. The picture showed a woman and warrior standing by a lake, holding hands. The wind was tossing her blond hair. She had a look of love and admiration of her face. The warrior was smiling, happily.
“I would not think of Stephan having a wife or even a mistress in his life,” Bard said. “Maybe he was not a self-centered as we thought him to be.”
“This must be worth something,” Bard said looking at a silk banner handing on the wall.
“It is still in excellent shape,” Eileena said, running her hand over it. “I would say this has to be worth at least 250 gold pieces.”
“For that?” Britt said coming over. “All it is is a banner.” While it was on a black background, the word ‘Victor’ has stitched in yellow.
“One would assume that it would not be worth much,” the elf replied. “However,” she said as she ran her fingers over the letters, “this is not ordinary embroidery thread; this is pure gold.”
“I found this,” George said coming over with a small pewter statue. It was one of a stallion that was rearing up on his hind legs.
Britt looked at it carefully. “Yes, I think we can get at least fifty gold pieces for this.”
“Stephan apparently fought while riding,” Bard said. In one hand he carried a heavy lance that was expertly carved with many runes and symbols.
“I also found this,” Johanna said. She was carrying a weapon similar to her mace. However, this one had an extra head on it the was suspended from a chain.
“Stephan must have been a strong person to carry either of these,” Britt said. “They both are still in excellent condition. When he went out to battle, he was not playing games. He took all of this stuff seriously.”
“Look at this!” exclaimed Bard. They had left Stephan’s personal chamber and walked down a short hallway. They were standing in a large open area that had a floor made of smooth slate. At each corner of this room were four marble columns. However, this was not what had attracted his attention. At one end, sitting on a stone platform, stood two large chairs made of red granite.
“I say,” said George, “they must have actually thought they were rulers! I wonder which one was the queen and which was the king.”
He went to one of the thrones and sat on it. “I am the king!” he called. “Britt, you are my queen!”
“Keep dreaming, son,” Britt growled. However, he walked over to the empty throne and sat on it. They kept an eye on the other.
Johanna and Bard walked around. “Do you think this was used as a ballroom?” she asked.
“I have no idea,” the warrior answered. “I have never been to a ball before, let alone dance.”
“Me neither,” said Johanna. “I mean I never have been to a ball, but I know some dances. Here, I will show you a few simple ones.”
“Shall we dance,” ask Bard.
After a few minutes, he learned a few simple steps. Soon they were dancing around the room, keeping step to unheard music.
Britt and George watched and Bard and Johanna were twirling around the ballroom.
“He is a fast learner,” George said. “Maybe I can teach him how to thieve.”
“With that big and clumsy body of his, he could not scale a wall,” Britt gruffed. He would get a few feet, and then he would fall to the ground!” He barked out laughing. They watched in silence for a few minutes, and then he leaned towards the thief. “How long do you give them?” he whispered.
George knew what Britt was asking. “I give it time, because he just does not know. Looking at Johanna’s eyes, I can tell she is in love with him. However, he is completely blind or just is not ready. I have been trying to nudge them on when ever I can.” George became silent, thinking about his own true love, Shyla. He left out a heavy sigh.
Britt reached out his hand and patted him on the shoulder. “Do not give hope, son. I believe you will meet with her again one day. Just promise me one thing, George.”
“What is that, Britt,” he asked with renewed hope.
“First you need to stop thieving and live an honest life.”
“Oh I already know that,” George said. “I do not want to jeopardize losing her again. The only thing is thieving is the only thing I am good at. I do not know any other skills.”
“You can learn something from what you already know,” the dwarf said wisely.
“I see what you mean,” George said. “I even have an idea. I also am good with numbers. Hey! I might be a good banker. What was the second thing?”
“When you get married, I want to be your best man.”
“You got it!”
Balon and Eileena were amused watching the two dancers.
“The king and queen of the ball,” the magic-user said. When he saw Bard accidently step on Johanna’s toe, he laughed. “He has a lot of learning, but he is catching on quick. Shall we join them?”
“With pleasure,” the elf said. The shortly joined the dancers on the floor.
George looked over at Britt. “Do not even ask,” the dwarf grunted.
“Do not worry; I was not going at ask you to dance. I wanted to know if you wanted to check out the room over across the hallway.
“I do not see any reason why we should interrupt the partiers.”
They got off the thrones and walked to the first door.
“They must have collected something from each of their adventures,” Britt said, after making sure the room was secure.
“Do you remember the tapestry in Stephan’s room?” George asked. “Maybe this is the dragon he had slain.” On the northern wall was a dragon skin. Britt wan his hands over the green scales. “After all these years, and this skin is still in very good condition.”
“What is the sense of having something like this? It has no use, handing on this wall. I am sure it would sell. Somebody could make shoes and clothes out of this.”
“I agree,” said Britt. “If I have to kill something, I do not keep parts of it to brag about it. True, something will provide me with food and clothing. But to have something just for the sake of it, it just means that I have more stuff to carry. Even if I did have a home, I do not think I would litter it up with worthless junk.”
“My home,” said George, “will have a roomful of books.” His eyes opened wide. “How did he even manage to do that?”
Looking where George was pointing, Britt saw a stone basilisk.
Maybe this is just a sculpture. They walked over and ran his hands over it. “No, this was alive at on time. Do not worry, George,” he said when he noticed the thief was trying not to look in the creature’s eyes, “it will not harm you or anybody again.”
“Still, how did Stephan manage to do this? He would have turned to stone when he directly looked into the basilisk’s eyes.
“He must have been using a mirror. The creature probably saw his reflection and it turned to stone.”
“We were wondering where you disappeared to,” Balon said, when Britt and George returned to the dance floor. “Did you find anything?”
“No it was some sort of trophy rooms. There were bear rugs, antlers from a moose or an elk. Then he told them about the dragon skin and the petrified basilisk.
“Interesting,” the magic-user said. “I wouldn’t even want to tangle with one of those.”
“There is a hallway to the south,” Bard said.
They followed a short hallway. “I hope this is not another maze room,” said George after they made three right turns.
“No it is a room,” Eileena said, when after they made the final right, she walked right into the door. The plaque on the door read:
You are my best fighter,
Trusted Among Friends
Feared by your enemies
May you prevail
In all that you do!”
“This must be the captain’s chamber,” Bard said.
“I would have thought that this would have been a more elegant room,” George said.....
“All the chambers have been like that,” Bard said. “It seemed that the people who lived here have been frugal.”
“Sure,” Britt said, “we have found gems and gold coins throughout the fortress. However, it is nothing different of the other missions we have been on. Joban did put more of his money in the furnishings in his rooms.”
A bed sat in one corner of the room. There was nothing special about it. It looked like somebody had hammered some planks together and stuffed a mattress with straw. The table was built crudely in the same way. On top of the table was a chipped stoneware dish and mug. “Maybe he was the one who turned the basilisk into stone,” Balon said holding up a mirror.
George unlocked a wooden trunk that was found under the bed. He was disappointed when he did not find anything valuable in it. “Nothing but a coat, cloaks, boots and a broken knife. Wait a minute,” he said as he shifted through the moth eaten clothes, “I think I found something.” He pulled out a crystal vase that was lined in gold. Inside the vase was a silver ankle chain. “This is beautiful,” the thief said. “While this has to be worth over 250 gold pieces, I think somebody should have this instead. He walked over to Eileena and gave her the anklet. The elf looked at chain in astonishment. “George, that was so thoughtful of you. However, I cannot accept this when there are so many needy people living in villages.”
“I will tell you what I will do,” said George. “When we get back to Antares, we will find out just how much this is worth. Then I will use my share of the profits so you can keep it. At least the elders will not be cheated out of any money. It is the least I can do for you. You have done so much for me and I am repaying you for your selfless kindness.”
“Well will discuss this later,” Britt came, with a grin, carrying a barrel. “I have something better. Let’s take a break and have a drink.”
“It is getting late,” shouldn’t we get back to the library?” George asked, looking around the room.
“No,” hiccupped Britt, “it would be safer to stay here.”
George shook his head. He and Balon were the only sensible ones. He had filled his flask once. When he had finished his, he had no more. Balon did nothing, he just sat on the bed, smiling and watching the others in silence. Even though they were no where near what you would call intoxicated, their judgment would be off if they encountered any monsters on the way back. Well, at least the barrel of ale was finished. After a solid sleep, and a good breakfast, they would be one their way once again. According to Stephan and Joban’s map, there were other rooms nearby.
“George!” Britt suddenly exclaimed.
“What?” the thief asked startled, thinking that an orc suddenly materialized in the room.
“What happens next?”
“Oh,” knowing what Britt was talking about. He pulled the journal he had found in the dry pool out of his bag, and began reading as soon as Balon deciphered it with the read spell.
I see you have found my second journal. I see that you are getting deeper and deeper into my cavern since you found the dry place I told you about. Congratulations. You are brave explorers, or foolish ones. However, if you make it through the Caverns of Kildun Aalda, do not expect any magical rewards from me. You may find trinkets scattered throughout the room. Some as you can see are worth something in gold pieces. Others may protect you. That is all I am going to tell you, since you are intruding upon my and Stephan’s privacy.
I will not bore you with details of all the rooms I explored while I was in the tiger castle of Gallapas. I defeated many monsters throughout the different rooms. Whenever, I rested I read from the magic journal and learned different spells. Within a short amount of time I went from being a medium and advanced to a conjurer. Maybe that was what I intended to do in the first place. However, I still felt that my life was unworthy. I had no choice but to continue.
I found myself in the castle longer than I intended to be. Once I left the castle, I had an eight or nine day journey back to Antares. My food supply would run out before I got back. I would either have to end my quest now and head back with my belt tightened around my stomach. Or I could continue and worry about finding food later.
After several days of exploring, killing monsters, finding treasures, meditating and building up my magical skills, I found myself in a room that was lit with a glow and I did not need my lantern. When I saw the glassware that lined the shelves, I realized that I was in Gasllapas’s laboratory. On the west wall there were two windows that were shaped like tiger eyes. However, when I went to look at them, I could neither see out of them nor break them
Where was this glow coming from? On the west wall were two furnaces. Coals were in them and even though they were giving off light, there was no smoke. They were not even hot; I was able to hold some in my hand without getting burnt.
In the center of the room was a spiral staircase, just like one of many spiral staircases throughout the castle. The glow from the furnace lit it entirely and I could see above my head. A trapdoor was in the ceiling above my head. Somehow, I knew that what I was seeking was up there. I pulled on it and the door came down, revealing another set of stairs.
I entered the room and as soon as I climbed through the hole in the floor, I heard a hissing to my right. A pit viper was coiled up, ready to strike. With the spells I had already used, I had to wait until I was rested. There was one I had not used yet. The snake suddenly relaxed and went limp. I imagine it snoring as I walked by its still body. “Let it sleep,” I told myself. There was no reason to kill it. It would still be dreaming, what snakes normally dream about in their tiny pea-sized brains, when I left this room.
I looked around the thirty foot circular room. Shelves loaded with books lined most of the walls of this castle. I was standing in Gallapas’s private study. Even if I did not find this rumored treasure by surviving the quest into the castle, the greatest wealth would be in these books. However, after I looked through a couple, I realized they were just general books, the types you can find in different towns such as Antares. There did not seem to be any journals or books on spells.
A cool breeze started blowing through the room. I became aware of a presence in the room. I did not see it but felt that something was watching me as I moved.
I turned slowly around and I saw a cloud of dust. There was a strange light source within the dust. Soon it formed into a translucent being. I was facing Gallapass’s ghost! He slowly raised his hand. How would I fight and defeat a ghost? I raised my hand to use whatever power to distract this being and escape.
“You cannot attack me!” the ghost laughed. It was not an evil laugh. In fact, he chuckled gently. “You are mortal and I am immortal!” With no power to defeat this presence, my unworthy light would be ended. “Joban,” the ghost said, gently, “There is need to be afraid of me.”
A cool breeze that was blowing around me had now turned into a fierce cold wind. It sent chills up and down my spine. The ghost was floating a foot above the floor. I realized that I had no need to fear it. This one had no evil in it; it was a benevolent ghost.
It spoke, “Brave adventurer, Joban, you have made it this far. You passed the tests and obstacles I have set out. You got through both the seen and the unseen. Even where your strength failed you at times, your determination allowed you to succeed.
“Many people ran at the first sign of danger. You did not do that. Even though you used magic to help you throughout the tasks, you realized the key to reaching your destination was by using a clear mind.
Gallapas’s ghost floated behind me. As I turned to face it again, it spoke, “You are the only one who made it this far. You are my soul heir. While you found many valuable and magical objects throughout my castle, the most valuable treasure is within you. All that I have learned throughout the years is now within you. You will have more magical powers that you ever though it was possible to obtain. I give you all my knowledge and wisdom.” In an instant my mind became a universe that I had no idea how I would be able to handle everything that entered into my mind at once. Then it organized itself into different parts of my brain. When I needed that information, it would come forth, then recede back into the blackness of my mind and be retained until I needed it again.
“There is nothing more that you can do in this castle. I will depart this place and go to the heavenly realms. This place will eventually decay and rot in age. Never return to this forsaken place. However, I will leave you my ring to show you that you are my rightful heir.”
The ghost slowly disintegrated into air. The breeze that was flowing around me disappeared. On my ring a sterling silver ring appeared; there was a body of a tiger engraved on it. I decided there was nothing more I could do in this castle. Already the walls started to become black and moldy with age. I stepped out of the room.
All of a sudden everything turned black. I did not lose consciousness and was aware of my surroundings. It was not even for a second. Then once again I could see once again. I was no longer in Gallapas’s Castle, but standing next to the fireplace at the Stoneville Inn. Patrons were too busy talking and laughing over their mead and ale that they did not seem surprised to see me suddenly appear. However, one person noticed, the man who told me about this marvelous place.
He walked up to me. “Congratulations, Joban! I knew you could do it!”
Clasping my hand, he shook it. Then he noticed the ring on my hand. Do you know why you were able to survive the castle?”
I never thought about it.
“Gallapus has chosen you to be his heir. This ring is his gift to you. Even though it is worth over a thousand gold pieces, do not sell it. It will be worth more to you throughout your entire life!”
I smiled to myself. Yes. I am finally happy. I have found worth and a purpose in my very existence.
Note: To the intruder who found this journal: Do not expect to become my heir. I am not generous like Gallapas was. I am and always will be selfish, even when I am dead. Also, the ring that I was given was given to me alone. Once I die it will become a piece of worthless junk. Once I die it will be teleported back to this fortress. If you have found it that means that I am dead.
“That is the end of the journal,” said George.
“That ring I found in Joban’s laboratory,” Johanna said, “was that possibly the ring?”
“I believe so,” so said Balon. “He was right, it is not worth anything. What do you think, Britt?”.
There was no answer from the dwarf. He had closed his eyes and was starting to snore.