The Caverns of Kildun Aalda--Chapter Two--Inside the Catacombs
The way had been easy. Bard was able to ride in a farmer's carriage most of the way. The farmer refused to go any closer. Therefore, Bard had to walk the last five miles.
The day was beautiful. The sky was the brightest blue and there were no clouds. Birds chirped in the trees. Small animals ran along the ground. A few squirrels chattered back and forth to each other. Everything seemed to be peaceful. However, it would not be so in the Catacombs.
Bard found the steps leading up to the entrance. The doorway would have been enough to send people fleeing even before they entered the Catacombs. The head of a dragon was stuck at the top of the arc of the entrance way. It was covered with green scales. Its mouth was opened, revealing the rows of sharp pointed teeth. The eyes were yellow with black slits, not unlike a cat’s eye. Even though the head was made of stone, it looked realistic.
Hanging under the dragon's head was a sign. In letters that seemed to be written in blood, the sign read:
"To all those who enter the Catacombs,
Many of you will never see the light of day again,
But will walk with the creatures and guard the Monster's treasures!"
Bard looked at the dragon's head and the sign and walked past them into the tunnel. It was too dark; he could not see a thing. So he took the pack off his back, opened it and took out his lantern, an oil flask and the tinderbox. He filled the lantern with oil and then carefully lit the wick. The flame sputtered at first, but the oil soon began to burn with a soft glow.
When he saw that the flame was burning steadily, Bard put the tinderbox and the flask back into the pack. He shouldered that once again. He drew his sword and held it in his right hand. Holding the lantern in his left, he advanced into the Catacombs.
It was dark even as Bard held the lantern. The air felt and smelt damp. Bard carefully felt the ground with his feet lest he should stumble into some pit.
There seemed to be only one passageway leading from the entrance. So Bard decided to follow it. As he went deeper and deeper into the hill, he kept watching for bats and other nasty types of creatures.
Suddenly, Bard saw something move in front of him. It was a short, fat creature. It has sunken pig-like eyes, a protruding jaw-which had saliva running down like a waterfall-and a bad smell as if it had washed in manure. The creature had thick gray hair over his skin.
Bard recognized this creature. It was a goblin. Though he never fought one before, he knew that goblins were poor fighters. He knew he could kill it. Bard approached the creature.
The goblin saw Bard. A low growling formed in its throat. It continued until it got louder and became a scream. It rushed at Bard, waiving its sword.
The goblin was not fast enough. Bard was able to get out of the way easily. Even if the goblin hit him with the sword, it would not have caused any harm-the blade was dull and blunt.
"You scum!" You want to steal my treasure!" the goblin shrieked at Bard. He rushed at him and missed again.
Bard struck at the goblin with his sword. The blade caught the creature and pierced its armor-the armor had been poorly made.
Feeling the pain in his side, the Goblin backed away from Bard.
"You may have defeated me, but I will be back with my brothers."
The goblin ran down the corridor into the darkness. Bard started to chase him and then stopped. He remembered hearing that goblins saw much better in the dark than humans.
Bard checked himself before continuing. After making sure that he did not lose anything during the fight, he continued down the corridor. He looked carefully for side passageways, but found none. There was no other way to go unless if he walked in the opposite direction. Then he would be back outside. However, it was too early to do that.
Suddenly, the tunnel ahead of Bard opened up into a large chamber. Carefully, he moved towards the chamber, shining his lantern around the room to see if there was anything in there.
A loud hissing and rattling sound occurred simultaneously. This caused Bard to jump back. Then he saw the snake at the far end of the chamber. He glanced around the room for other snakes; there was only one. He looked back towards it.
"Whoa," Bard murmured.
This was the largest rattlesnake he had ever seen-almost twenty feet long.
"Hello, my friend," Bard began, attempting to smooth talk the snake. "I have lost my way; I am looking for the town of Antares."
The snake did not reply. It coiled up to strike.
One look at the snake, Bard knew that he could not reason with it by talking. Beyond the snake there was another entrance-he wanted to continue on, but there was no way to maneuver around the enormous creature. It was either fight or turn back.
Bard drew his sword and, at the same instance, the snake sprung at the fighter from its coil.
Bard hit the snake with his sword on the creature's side. However, there were two misfortunes. The first was the wound was not fatal; this maddened the creature. The snake, being extremely powerful, crashed his head against Bard's chest. The force of the blow sent him falling to the ground. The second misfortune was that the snake found some of the fighter's bare skin and sunk his fangs into the flesh.
With one hand Bard pushed the snake's head from his skin. With the other hand he swung his sword at its head. The blade went halfway through.
Though more dead than alive, the snake was able to bite Bard's hand. He swung the sword again and cut off the snake's head. Its body went limp across his chest.
Bard pushed the snake off him. Then he ripped a piece of cloth from his cape. He tied this over the snake bites to keep the poison from spreading. He had been bitten by many snakes in his life, some even more poisonous than this one. Yet, while he would eventually recover, he still should have bought a healing potion with him.
Bard sat down and leaned back against the wall of the cavern. In a few minutes he would continue on.
Something glittering caught his eyes. He got up to see what it was.
Hundreds of gold and silver coins were scattered on the floor. Bard pulled his bags out of his sacks and started to fill them up with the coins. Most of them were gold and silver, but some were made of bronze and platinum.
Bard could not find any more coins, so he decided to look over the chamber once again to see if there were any more treasures. In a corner, he found a round stone. He picked it up and saw that it was a pearl. He was not sure of how much it was worth, but several people in Antares would know.
After a few more minutes of resting, Bard got up and looked towards the direction in which he had come from. Far away he could still see the light of day in the entrance way.
He started to walk towards the light. Then he stopped.
"No," he said to himself. "I cannot run away because of a little fight." He was starting to feel weak from the snake venom. "I will never make it back to the village. I will have to continue on to find a remedy."
Bard walked in the opposite direction. He stepped over the body of the snake and walked through the doorway. He found himself walking down another corridor.
Bard approached another chamber, this one smaller than the one he had been in before. As he was nearing the room, a faint singing was heard. Bard looked and noticed that there was a light coming from the chamber.
Bard extinguished the flame before continuing on. He kept his eyes on the light as he moved towards the chamber.
Feeling with his hands, Bard found the entrance to the cavern. He peeked around the corner, searching with his eyes, trying to find what evils lurked in the room.
He was in for a surprise.
Sitting in the middle of the chamber was a beautiful woman with long auburn hair. The armor that she wore was chain mail, made like Bard's, but her arms and legs were better protected. He could not tell if she had a sword. However, she had a long staff with a large metal ball that had spikes sticking out. He knew that the weapon was a mace-a weapon that can be very effective if used by a strong person.
Her eyes were closed and she was singing in a language that he did not understand.
Thinking that she was either meditating or praying, Bard did not want to disturb her. He attempted to move as quietly as he could to the far side of the room. However, as he was walking by the woman, she opened her eyes and looked at him.
"Greetings, my friend, are you looking for the goblin?" The woman watched his carefully, unsure if he was friend or foe.
Bard was taken aback by the woman's deep blue eyes. It was like looking into deep pools of water. However, his hand unconsciously tightened around the hilt of his sword. Some evil creatures had the power of disguising themselves into beautiful things.
"I did not mean to disturb you. I was just passing by."
The woman stood up. "My name is Johanna. I am a priestess, a lover of adventure just like you."
"Where do you live?"
"I live no place. I travel with other people like myself. We are camping by a church just north of the Catacombs. We will travel on in a few days. Do you know much about clerics?"
Bard thought. "I do not think any of the people in my village study any religion. I guess most of them lost faith in the gods. However, I have heard some talk of them in Antares. Some even train at the warrior school in town. Let me see what I can remember.
"You people belong to a group of people who fight to bring law and order to a land."
"That is true. We are trained in fighting like you are. However, our religious beliefs forbid us to use any weapons that have a sharp blade-such as a sword. Some of the weapons we may use are a mace, club, war hammer or a sling.
"We can also cast spells. Through meditation I gain knowledge of a spell." She looked at Bard. "It looks like you will need a curing spell. Did you have a fight with something already?"
"Yes, with a snake. The fight did not last long. Yet, it did bite me."
Johanna closed her eyes and said a few words. Then she reached out her hand and touched Bard.
Instantly Bard felt his head go light. He found it difficult to keep his eyes opened. He slowly slid to the ground.
"This is funny," Bard said to himself. "She is going to kill me in my sleep." Then he fell fast asleep.
A short while later Bard was awake. He sat up, expecting to feel jabs of pain where his wounds were. However, they had vanished; both the poison and the wounds had been healed by Johanna.
She looked over at him. "Do you feel better?"
"Yes, I do. I think all of the poison is out of my system."
"Well you were very lucky, most poison is fatal. If you had not met up with me, you may have been dead shortly. It would have been too late by then; I do not know any spells to raise the dead."
"Well, I thank you all the same, my lady." Bard began to trust Johanna; he realized that he could have slain him while he was sleeping. "Have you been in the Catacombs long?"
"I have been here just for the day. I have entered a few times before."
"I have heard stories of many people not returning from the Catacombs."
I have seen several different monsters. There are some that can paralyze you, others that can turn you into stone if you look directly into their faces, and even some that can turn your armor to rust if they touch you.
"I am not that strong yet to defeat all the monsters. However, my magic is growing every day. However, I am not strong enough yet; I have a long way to go."
"We better get moving," Bard said. "That goblin might return with others."
"I can travel with you through the Catacombs, if you want. We would be more successful than if we traveled alone."
Bard thought about Johanna's offer. "This means I will have to share any treasures I find with her," he thought to himself. "However, it will be easier to defeat the monsters together. What Johanna lacks in strength, she can make up in magic."
"Follow me," Bard said to Johanna as he left the chamber and started walking down the next passageway.
Side by side, Bard and Johanna walked quietly down the dark passageway.
"Look," Bard whispered, pointing ahead of him. The corridor they had been walking down branched sharply to the right.
"We have to be careful. We do not know what is hiding around the corner."
Bard shuttered his lantern so it would not show much light. He motioned for Johanna to follow him. He moved up to the corner and peeked around.
Around ten feet down the side corridor four beast-like humans stood in a group. At first Bard thought they were adventurers like him. Then he got a second look at them.
The four creatures all looked alike. They had unruly black hair, pale skin (except for the areas that were covered with dirt and grime), and pale eyes that were glazed over. The four creatures just stood in the corridor not talking or making any noise. They stood as if waiting for some innocent person to come along.
One of the creatures turned its head and looked towards the direction in which Bard was standing, who ducked his head back in time before he was seen. He had almost gasped aloud when he saw the creature's razor sharp teeth.
Johanna touched his arm. Bard turned his head to look at her. She signaled that she wanted to talk to him. They walked a few feet from the side corridor so the creatures would not hear them talking.
"What is it?" Bard asked.
"The monsters are ghouls. If one touches you, it can paralyze you."
"What are ghouls?" Bard asked. He had never seen or heard of them before.
"They are undead monsters," Johanna explained. "They are being punished for evil things that they had done when they were humans."
"Can they be defeated?"
"They are very nasty, but I have some power over these creatures of darkness. This time you follow me."
The two moved back towards the side corridor. Johanna held up her hand and Bard stopped. They peeked around the corner to see if the ghouls were still there. They were standing there as before, but did not appear as if they suspected anything.
Johanna pulled a necklace from under her armor and held it in her hand. Bard caught a glimpse of the charm that hung from the end of the gold chain. It was a carved symbol of the Thunderbird-an eagle grasping a lightning bolt in its talons.
Johanna grasped the charm tightly in her hands. Then she boldly stepped into the side passageway in full view of the ghouls.
When the monsters saw the girl, they quickly moved to attack her-stretching out their hands to touch her flesh. Johanna hands trembled when she saw the monsters at first. Then she stared at the ghouls with scorn. She was not going to fall victim to these creatures.
She thrust out her hands and made sure the ghouls saw the charm. At the same time she said in a strong voice, "Vile things begone!"
The ghouls stopped in their advance. When they saw the charm and heard the words, they-in a rush-suddenly scrambled away down the corridor in the opposite direction.
Bard had watched this. What was interesting to him was that the ghouls had disappeared in total silence-even no footfalls could be heard as they ran down the corridor.
Bard walked up to Johanna. "Shouldn't we see where they are going?"
"No. That can be dangerous. They might try to lay an ambush. If we continue, we have to move carefully."
As they continued walking down the passageway, Bard and Johanna talked.
"That spell you used on the Ghouls, what was it?
"It is called Forcing Away Undead. Only a few people can work this spell. Alas this spell does not work all the time."
"Are there any other undead monsters?"
"There are mostly skeletons and zombies in the Catacombs. Whenever you travel in here, you should have a companion who is able to deal with undead monsters properly. If you do not have such a person and you encounter these creatures, they can easily overpower you. They usually kill their victims afterwards.
"We better move along faster; this spell only lasts a short while."
Johanna and Bard walked quickly down the corridor for the fear of creatures jumping out at them from the darkness. They had been moving so fast that they almost passed by the door.
"Wait," Bard said.
Johanna stopped and looked at the door to the right.
"Do you think it leads to another corridor or chamber?" Bard asked as he reached his hand toward the handle.
"I don't know," Johanna began. "Wait! Do not touch that door!"
Bard froze, his hand inches from the handle. "What is the matter?"
"We have to make sure that it is not dangerous. Sometimes traps are set up to either give advance warning to those guarding these Catacombs or to kill intruders immediately. The two most common traps are a trip rope releasing spikes from the wall-impaling the victims’ body-and also traps that release loose stones from above.
"I will show you what to do. We will feel carefully with our hands. If you come to a rope or wire, tell me. I will show you how to dismantle the trap."
For the next few minutes Bard and Johanna searched for any traps. However, they could not find any.
"I guess it is safe." She reached out her hand and tried turning the carved handle. "It is locked!"
"Stand back," Bard said. He backed up to the other side of the corridor. Then he rushed at the door, hoping to break through the wooden barrier. The door was too solid for it to be forced open.
"Do not hurt your shoulder," Johanna said, as she saw Bard rub his shoulder. "The door is too heavy. It is a pity though. Who knows what treasures lay beyond? Well the next time you return, bring along a thief."
"Why should I do a thing like that? Once we found a treasure, a thief would stab me when I would not be looking because he would not want to share any of it."
"Thieves are not bad people-at least many of them are not. They are adventurers like you and me, though they are not good in direct confrontations-they usually try to sneak around potential dangers and if they ever attack a monster, usually they do so from behind."
"Then what good are they if they do not fight well?"
"They have many skills that can be useful to you. Their best skill is opening locks. They are the only people who can do so without using any form of magic. They can also find traps and remove them more quickly and easily. Finally, if you ever travel in a group, the thief can act as a recon. He climbs walls, moves silently, hides in shadows and hears very well-even listening through closed doors is very easy to him.
"The main problem with thieves is that they love to pick pockets. You should keep an eye on your treasures. You can trust most of them; if you catch one trying to take any of your possessions, he will return it to you. Very few thieves will kill their companions for extra gold; once you have more experience you will be able to tell who to and who not to trust."
"Who do you usually travel with?"
"Normally I travel with other clerics. We are not interested that much with finding treasures; though a few coins here and there will help us get food and lodging. We are mostly concerned with destroying anything evil. However, sometimes I like to break away from my people for a short time and go on adventures with other people. I like to travel with a few thieves and a magic-user or two, I also prefer a few fighters to do the heavy work. This time I could not find anybody to venture in the Catacombs. So I decided to handle this adventure alone."
Bard looked at the door. "I guess this door is to remain locked." He paused as if he sensed something. "Quiet. I think I hear voices," he whispered to Johanna.
They shuttered their lanterns and moved stealthily down the corridor. It curved towards the right. As they passed the curve, Bard saw a light ahead. This time the voices were louder and words could be heard.
"That voice sounds familiar," Johanna said, talking about a person who sounded superior to the other voice.
"Get up, you weakling!" screamed the one voice. "Who else was there?"
"Please Master! Do not hurt me! I am only a lowly goblin."
"There was only the fighter and the priestess..."
"And you were not able to kill them!" exploded the other voice. "What kind of creature are you? You are only good enough to be food for the dragons!"
"Please! Have mercy!" whimpered the goblin. "I fought real hard with the fighter. I gave him a serious would. I do not think he will last much longer."
When Bard heard what the goblin said, he chuckled to himself. The goblin had not been able to wound him, not even get close to doing so.
"Get up. You probably ran away without trying. Well, I will deal with you later. Are you sure that those were the only two and nobody else?"
"Nobody else, Master, I swear it!"
"They can be taken care of easily. Still they may cause trouble. Listen to my plan; we can trick the intruders and kill them without a fight."
Johanna tapped Bard on the arm. He turned towards her.
"I thought that voice sounded familiar! It belongs to Trent, an evil magic-user."
Bard nodded his head. He had heard about Trent. He had terrorized the people in Antares because he also was a bandit. He stole money and jewels from the richer families and killed them afterwards.
When the people started to suspect Trent of his crimes, he fled the town. The guards were constantly on the look for him, but he was never seen in Antares again.
"We should go back," Bard said. "If that is Trent, he is very powerful and dangerous."
"I agree. Wait! I almost forgot. The ghouls are behind us. It is too early for me to cast another spell against them. Trent and the goblin are still talking. He may not know we are right here. We can try getting by them without being seen. If they see us, fight the goblin. I will use my magic against Trent's."
Johanna and Bard walked carefully up to the chamber and peeked around the corner.
They were looking in another room. Trent stood in the middle of it. Standing at six-and-a-half feet tall, he looked very impressive. The bearded man wore a black hooded robe-an article of clothing evil magic-users wore. Trent had been repeating a chant over and over; Bard did not understand what Trent was saying-it appeared to be said in a foreign language. Bard's eye wandered to the goblin, which was crouching in the corner, watching Trent.
Johanna backed up startled and almost knocked Bard over.
"What is the matter?"
"Look!" Johanna exclaimed pointing.
Trent had raised his arms over his head and a green aura emitted from his body. Bard wondered what spell the cleric was casting; then he saw Trent's body, which appeared to be a solid mass, began to change. The body became less solid until it was transparent. He could see right through it. Then the body, along with the clothing Trent wore, disappeared entirely. Bard realized that the cleric had cast an invisibility spell.
The goblin cackled with laughter. "Master, it is perfect! It worked! Nobody will see you!"
Trent laughed. "These intruders will have a surprise. There will be no trouble defeating them now!"
"Master, me next! Make me invisible also!"
Johanna turned to Bard. "We have to chance it, before Trent uses any more magic!"
Bard and Johanna rushed into the chamber together. Bard rushed towards the goblin and protected him from reaching Johanna.
The goblin, seeing Bard, screamed with rage. He looked around desperately for a way to escape and almost made a dash for the doorway.
"Fight him you coward!" an invisible voice boomed throughout the chamber. "If you do not, I will turn you into a toad or worse!"
Johanna, who had been looking around wildly for the invisible magician, ran towards where the voice had come from, waving her mace to and fro in the air. One time her mace struck an invisible solid mass and Bard heard a grunting sound.
Meanwhile, the goblin realized that it had no choice but to fight. He rushed at Bard, swinging its sword. However, its aim was off, and had missed Bard completely.
Johanna stopped swinging her mace; she was unable to make contact with the Invisible Trent anymore. She closed her eyes and began casting a spell.
Bard swung at the goblin as it rushed by. The blade struck its back and the monster fell to the ground screaming in pain. Bard looked at the blood pouring from the goblin's wound. It was still alive, but would not last long; one stroke of the sword would end the miserable creature's life.
Bard slowly raised his sword, planning to bring it crashing down on the monster's neck. However, he was careless. He did not expect the goblin to have any more fight in him. The goblin quickly rolled onto its side and swung the sword at Bard's leg. Bard felt the blade pierce unexposed skin. He leapt away from the goblin, allowing it to get back to its feet.
Johanna looked around with worry. Her spell was not working; she could not find Trent anywhere.
"By the power of the gods of darkness," a voice came from a far corner of the room.
Johanna, hearing the voice, turned and ran towards the corner. At the same moment, Trent stepped from the shadows, his appearance even more menacing than before.
Trent glared at the charging priestess for a moment. Then he shouted, "Seek and destroy!" while thrusting out his hand at the same time. A black bolt of lightning shot out from his fingers. The bolt hit Johanna, who wailed with pain and collapsed to the ground.
Meanwhile, Bard and the goblin circled around eying each other. They were out of range of each other's swords. Bard realized that if this continued, the goblin would die of a lack of blood.
Then he saw Johanna's still body in the middle of the room. He knew that Trent would turn his attention to him. He rushed at the goblin.
The creature was so surprised by this sudden move that he dropped his sword in astonishment. This did not stop Bard. Swinging his sword, he beheaded the goblin.
When the goblin fell, Bard looked over towards Johanna's body. Trent stood over her and stared at the fighter. He began chanting words.
"He is casting a spell on me!" Bard thought wildly to himself. "I have to stop him!"
Bard rushed at Trent swinging his sword. However, when he was almost half the distance there, a funny feeling came over Bard. He realized that whatever spell Trent had cast, was working. Then he blacked out...