The caverns of Kildun Aalda--Chapter Four--The Visitors--Chapter Five---Return to the Catacombs
Chapter Four--The Visitors
Early the next morning, Bard passed through the entryway leading into Antares. The sentry standing guard nodded to him in recognition. Though he did not know the young fighter's name, he had seen him in town several times before.
Bard decided that he would no longer live in the rotted house in the village. He had stayed awake half the night counting his treasures. He had over 100 gold pieces and the pearl; he was sure it was worth a lot of money.
Bard walked up to the Stoneville Inn. He knew the innkeeper was currently renting rooms. He walked into the inn and found the keeper and several patrons drinking in the ale room. He saw Bard and walked over to him.
"Good morning my young man, have not seen you before."
"I lived at the village to the east."
"Nasty place," the innkeeper said shaking his head. "You should leave it. Well, I really should not say it is nasty; the people who live there are fine. It is just that village just fell apart and nobody seems to care about it. I came from that village myself and wonder why people living in a town as prosperous as Antares do not help the lesser fortunate places. You say you lived in the village? Are you planning on moving to Antares?”
"I came across a small fortune. I am interested in renting a room here."
The innkeeper stroked his head thoughtfully. "I charge two gold pieces a week. You may think that is expensive, but the meals and the beer are free."
"What kind of deal can we make with this?" Bard handed the pearl he had found in the Catacombs over to him.
"My word," said the Innkeeper to himself, "that is worth two hundred gold pieces by itself." Then he said to Bard, "Give me this and ten gold pieces and I will give you the best room for a year. Do you travel much?"
"Let me know if you plan to go for an extended time. I will refund you two gold pieces for each week you are gone. However, when you leave, you must take everything you own and have the room clean."
"It is a deal," bard said, handing the coins over to the innkeeper, unaware that the pearl's value was high enough to give him almost two year's rent.
The innkeeper grinned at his fortune. "Follow me. I will take you to your room.
A few hours later, Bard went to Joe Smith's shop. He had decided to sleep for a few hours, because the effects of the previous day's adventures were still on him.
The blacksmith was working at his anvil, banging some dents out of a shield. He was a muscular man, from his years of hard work. Though he was still fairly young-thirty years old-his face was careworn and his blond hair was beginning to get gray.
Armorer Smith looked up when Bard entered his shop.
"Bard, I have not seen you in a while! How have you been these days?"
Bard had known Joe for several years. When he was younger, he would visit him and listen to many exciting stories. Joe loved to tell tales and legends about the warriors who fought the barbarians. He also told Bard about his adventures when he was a fighter. Joe had been through the warrior school about ten years before. Though he was never promoted to Sword Master, he was an excellent asset to his Army.
Bard and Joe talked for a while about the past days. Then he told him about his adventures in the Catacombs.
"I am looking for better armor. What do you recommend?"
"Come over here. I believe I something you might like." He went to the far wall of his shop and started to pull down pieces of armor.
"Try this on," Joe said.
Bard walked over to what Joe offered him and started trying the pieces on. This armor was different than the chain mail he wore. The armor was made out of large metal plates that were attached by likes of chain mail. This would give him more protection than his chain mail offered. However, this suit was much heavier.
"That fits you well," Joe said. "I just need to make a few adjustments. The suit will be ready in three days. I know it is heavier than your chain mail. The weight may restrict your speed. However, this will give you the best protection and the plates will not break easily from blows."
"How much are you asking for this?"
"This sells for sixty gold pieces."
Forty gold pieces plus my chain mail," Bard bargained.
"It is a deal! The two men shook hands. Then Bard paid the blacksmith the money and left the shop.
Bard visited several marketplaces in Antares. He wanted to restock on things he had lost in the Catacombs. While it was not wise for him to return, he wanted to. He was sure he would find more gold pieces, even though he would be risking his life fighting monsters to get these. Then there was the possibility of Trent waiting to kill him with his magic. Yet, he knew that magic users were not good in close combat. If he was able to surprise him, he would have an advantage. If he could kill Trent, he would be hailed as a hero in Antares.
Spending most of his remaining gold coins, Bard returned to the Stoneville Inn with a new dagger, more oil for his lantern, food and a few extra sacks. At one shop the storekeeper talked Bard into buying a mirror.
"What do I need this for? He asked.
"Well to make sure your hair is combed," the storekeeper laughed. "I am just joking. You never know; it may protect you some day. Plus here is a wood pole that may it easier to walk up steep hills. Plus, take this bottle of wine. It will help you keep calm in stressful situations."
After putting his things in his room, Bard went down to the ale room to get a beer and eat some dinner. He sat down at a small table and noticed three people sitting at a larger one.
"They must be travelers," he thought to himself. "They look weary."
"I can't believe it," said the short, stocky man. He pulled at his long dark brown beard in frustration. "He said he would meet us here; after we traveled that distance from the south. Now we get a message that he has other commitments!"
Bard glanced over at the man talking angrily. He had dark skin. Bard knew that he was a dwarf. He also recognized the female. She was tall and thin and with her delicate features and pointed ears, it was obvious that she was an elf. The other man, sitting with a hood pulled over to his head, Bard did not recognize.
The elf, even though acting with grace, was also angry. "Jeff is unreliable. Every time we need him, he has one excuse or another. I have had it with him! As far as I am concerned, he is out!"
"Well at least the other two will be here. They gave me my word; it is a good thing we ran into them before they left the area. Yet, how are we going to find another fighter? George! Give me back my knife!" the dwarf yelled at the hooded man.
"Sorry," he said, grinning. "You know I am always tempted," he said giving the back the knife.
"Aha," Bard said to himself, "a thief!"
Bard approached the table and the group stopped talking. "Excuse me" he said. "I am sorry to interrupt. I noticed that you are looking for a fighter."
"Humph," the Dwarf grunted. "I take it that you are one. How good are you?"
"I don't have much experience. I was in the Catacombs a short time ago and fought some goblins and a snake."
"That's more experience than Jeff," the dwarf growled into his beer. "He is even afraid to step on a spider."
"Hey!" exclaimed the thief. "Are you the one who fought with Trent?" looking with interest at Bard's pockets.
"Yes," Bard answered, wondering how he knew about that.
"Come, sit with us," said the elf, pulling up another chair.
Bard sat down with the group. The dwarf shook his hand. "My name is Britt Stonewall. And that is George," he said pointing to the thief. The thief removed the hood from his head. Sitting across from him was not a man but a lad about five years younger than him.
"He is a good-for-nothing. The only thing he is good for is picking locks and pockets. George! Give him back his knife!"
George gave Bard back his knife. "There is nothing to worry about. I always return things sooner or later."
"I am Eileena," the elf said.
"It is nice to meet you all. Are you on a mission?"
"We are explorers “said Britt. We just came from the south searching the ruins of Crib Cadesh. In a week we are going north of here search a nearby forest.
"Rumor has it that many years a powerful magic-user and a warrior joined forces to build their reputation. Apparently they built an impressive fortress in this forest which they used as both a base of operations and their home. If this place actually exists, we will be one of the first ones to explore it."
"Should we even tell him this?" George asked. "How do we know that we can trust him?"
Bard laughed, "Take it for a thief to talk about trusting."
"Unfortunately," Britt said, "for once, he is right. "You cannot be too careful, because somebody may be a spy. We have to know you and trust you well enough to reveal our missions. Our missions are not always looking for treasures; we also fight for the good of the land."
For the next hour, Bard told them about his adventure in the Catacombs. He described the fights with the goblin, the snake and Trent. When he mentioned Johanna, Britt raised his eyebrow but did not say anything.
"I am planning to go back in a couple of days," he said. "I am looking for some companions. Would any of you be interested in joining me?"
"We have business to do in town," Britt said. "However, where we are exploring is just like the catacombs, but bigger and more monsters. If you return to the Catacombs and come back, we may consider telling you more about our mission and maybe let you join our group."
"I have been in the Catacombs before" Eileena spoke up. "Do you know the entranceway with the dragon’s head?
"Yes. I went in that way."
"If you go about two hundred meters past that entrance, you will find another one. It is easier to get into; it is less guarded."
Chapter Five--Return to the Catacombs
Walking back towards the Catacombs, Bard stopped at the Cleric campground by the church. However, it was cleaned up and the group was gone. He was hoping Johanna would join him on this quest. He would have to do this alone. He would just have to keep an eye out for the ghouls.
Upon reaching the hills, Bard found the southern entrance in which Eileena spoke of with some difficulty; it was hidden by the bushes and shadows.
After lighting his lantern, Bard stepped carefully through the entrance. He knew he had to use caution, because of Trent possibly being hidden lurking.
Almost immediately, Bard found himself in a large room. It was a square room; the walls were approximately 50 feet long and wide. The ceiling was 15 feet high. The walls, floor wad ceilings were made of rough rock, with small cracks and crevices. He paused and looked around. In the middle of this room was a statue of a warrior. He went over to look at it more closely, since the armor looked like it was gold. However, after finally looking at it and touching it, the statue was just a statue. There was nothing magical or special about it. He could see three corridors leading towards the north, south, east and west. The passageways were dark so he could not see if there were any monsters lurking in the shadows.
Before moving on Bard decided to listen and try to catch any noises. He heard some squeaking to his right.
Deciding to search the room, Bard walked along the edge running his hand along the rough rocky surface of the wall. Though there was no breeze in the room, something fluttered in the air and fell at Bard's feet. He picked it up and found out it was a piece of paper with writing on it. It read:
"Beware of the corridors.
They all lead to danger.
Many of you, who venture past this room,
Will never see the light of day again."
Bard looked at this warning a moment later and dropped the paper back to the ground.
"I am a survivor," Bard thought to himself. "I will make it through the dangers here." He looked at the three passageways. "Which is the best way? This way can not be any better or worse than the other ways." Bard started off down the eastern corridor, the direction in which the squeaking noises were coming from.
The passageway led on for a hundred feet. Bard saw that he was approaching another room. There were more squeaking noises.
"Rats!" Bard thought. "They must be rats." He shuttered his lantern so that only a glow could be seen. Then he peered into the room. Three large, six foot long, rats ran about the room. Bard thought about turning back when his eyes fell on some treasure scattered on the floor.
Bard jumped into the room and swung at them several times before the rats had time to react. Though one rat fell dead immediately, the other two surrounded Bard; one was behind him and the other in the front. He slowly approached the rat facing him. It started back with beady red eyes. He raised his sword to strike it down.
Then a large mass crashed into his back and sent his shield flying from his hand. He went falling to the ground with a rat clinging to his back. Bard rolled, trying to get away from the rat, which had been trying unsuccessfully to bite into his armor. All this happened in a few seconds time. Getting the rat off his back, Bard swung his sword down on his neck.
The other rat had not been sitting idle. Seeing its comrade in trouble, it rushed at him. Bard, forgetting about the second rat, felt a searing pain as its fangs bit into the soft flesh of his neck. He attempted to bring his sword up. However, the rat's tail wrapped around the handle and, like a whip, tore the sword out of his hand and threw it against the far wall of the room. It bit deeper into his neck, searching for the life source, hoping to rip the vein out.
Bard knew he had no time to lose. With one hand trying to prevent the rat from biting any deeper, he reached with the other. Feeling for his boot, he slid his hand in and pulled out his knife, the one he had just bought to replace the one Trent had stolen. Keeping a good grip on the knife, lest the rat should try to take this one, Bard brought it over the rat's head. Then he thrust it downwards.
The rat's grip tightened, then it lessened. Bard stabbed at it several more times until he was sure the rat would move no more.
Pushing the body away, Bard sat up. Blood was running freely from his would. Reaching into his backpack, he pulled out a rag. He tied this around his neck to stop the bleeding. Since the bites were not life-threatening, he decided not to use the healing potion. He may need that later.
He went over to the treasure and collected the coins and put them in the sack. They were mostly copper and silver pieces. Bard was disappointed; this was a poor find. He was hoping for more valuable coins and gems.
After resting for a few minutes, Bard checked his wounds. The bleeding was already beginning to slow down.
"I think I will go up the northern passage."
A short distance up it, a side passage led towards the left. He saw that it opened into an empty chamber. Stepping into it, he looked around. There was nothing in it; it was clean and empty (so bare that not even fragments of bone could not be found). He turned to leave because there was obviously no treasure to be found.
"Well! Hello there!" a sexy woman's voice spoke lusciously.
Bard looked around the chamber to see who had spoken. It was not Johanna's voice. However, maybe it was somebody who would join him.
On the far wall, an illusion of a woman's lips appeared. They were smiling.
"Hello Milady. It is a beautiful day."
The set of lips did not answer.
"What by chance, is this chamber?"
"This is the game room. The stakes are high-you either double your money or lose all of it."
"I see," Bard said to himself. "I cannot afford to take that chance to lose my treasure." He turned to leave the chamber. However, the doorway was blocked by a large trench. The trench was too wide for him to jump across. Looking down to see how deep it was, he heard faint cries of "We're falling! Help us!" It seemed that this was a bottomless pit and the pitiful beings would be falling for a long time.
"What is this?" Bard said angrily.
"You have to play the game when you are in my room. All you have to do is answer one riddle. Then you can leave here in peace."
"What is the riddle?”
"S-M-T-W-T-F, what is the next letter?"
Bard was too shocked to speak at first. "This is unbelievable," he thought to himself. "I have known that riddle all my life. George Smith had taught me this when I was a kid. The days of the week, I know the next letter."
"Answer me," the lips said softly and sweetly.
"Well, fair is fair," the lips said. "Congratulations young fighter. Your coins are doubled. You can leave the room."
The trench closed up and Bard walked out of the game room and down the side passage until he returned to the one he was traveling north on. He turned left on this one and continued walking. The passage turned towards the left and opened into another room.
Bard entered the chamber with caution. He heard grunting coming from in the room. "They sound like goblins," Bard thought to himself. He shuttered his lantern and peeked in the room. He saw two goblins and they appeared to be talking to each other. However, it was in a language that Bard did not understand. They did not notice him.
"Hello, my friends!" Bard said as he entered into the chamber.
The two goblins both jumped at Bard's voice. The bigger goblin scowled and grunted something in its own language. However, the second one appeared to be friendly.
He smiled and replied back in the Common Language, "Hello there, young adventurer. What can we do for you?"
Bard knew that he could sometimes get valuable information sometimes by talking. However, even though this goblin appeared to be friendly, he knew this goblin did not like him. The other goblin left walking up the north corridor and turned left.
Bard turned to the other goblin, "I am just wondering if you can help me. I entered these caves to get out of a storm. Now I am lost."
"Well, it is easy to get lost in here. My brother had to see to his sick brother. He will be back and will be able to help."
Suddenly Bard heard more grunting coming from the northern corridor. He looked and saw two other goblins running down the passageway towards him. They looked mad.
The goblin that had appeared to be friendly swung it sword at Bard. He had seen it coming and blocked him. Killing the first goblin easily, he turned his attention to the other two. They stopped in their tracks and ran back up the passageway, dropping their weapons and a few sacks as they ran.
"That was easy," Bard said. He inspected the sacks the creatures had dropped. They contained 100 silver and 50 gold pieces. He left the goblin's weapons where they were lying. Being rusty, they were worthless and had no value to them.
The two goblins returned and attacked Bard.
"I am getting annoyed with you goblins," Bard said swinging his sword easily at the attacking goblins. "This will be no battle," Bard said. "I have already defeated one, make that two," he said as he cleanly severed one of the miserable creatures heads from its body.
"Blarg, oh my friend Blarg! You killed him you bastard!" the other goblin screamed at Bard. "You are going to pay!"
The goblin swiftly reached into its pouch and pulled out a ball bearing as small as a pin head. He threw it at Bard. The bearing was so small that it was able to pass through the plates of his armor.
"Love my poison, thief!" the goblin yelled as he threw. Bard felt a slight sting in his arm as the ball bearing pierced his arm. Then the poison ran through his body. He knew this was far more deadly than when he fought the snake.
The goblin was slowly convulsing. He had accidentally pierced himself as he was throwing the bearing. The poison was quickly spreading through his body.
"I am dying. However, at least I have the satisfaction of seeing you go also," the goblin said weakly. No! That cannot be! You humans never play fair." The goblin closed his eyes.
Bard finished drinking his healing potion. "That was a close one," he thought to himself. "I just barely had the strength to drink that."
Before he had a chance to check the chamber, he heard angry shouts from the north. Three more goblins were running down the corridor towards him.
Bard swung his sword at the closest goblin and sent it crashing against the wall. The other goblins stopped in their tracks, screamed and ran back up the passageway.
Bard gave chase. It was not for the gold or other valuable things he would find; it was for the fun of it. He wanted to see these creatures plea with him. He saw the goblins up ahead run through a doorway. By the time he reached it, the door was shut and locked.
A shiny object lay on the ground by the door. It was a key. Bard picked it up and fit it into the keyhole. However, it would not unlatch the door.
"Please leave us alone!" a goblin's voice pleaded.
Bard laughed. "I can wait out here as long as you can."
"Have mercy on us," the goblin's voice spoke humbly. "We are only guarding our master's treasure."
"Where is Trent?" Bard demanded.
"Trent is not our master. He had us under his spell. He fled the Catacombs after the last time you were here. Please leave us alone! We will pay you."
"Pay me with what?" Bard said with scorn.
"There is a small bag with some gold and silver pieces in it. It is not much. It is hidden in a small hole in the wall across from this door."
Bard silently walked over to the opposite wall and found that the goblin was telling the truth, a very rare thing. He moved silently down the passageway. "Let them sit scared for a while," he said to himself.
Bard walked for a while without any encounters until he reached the chamber that had a passage leading to the sunlight. He walked north and the corridor opened up into a room. Not seeing anything, he entered in the room. Without making a sound, two skeletons stepped forward and swung at him. One of the skeleton's sword hit Bard. However, the swords were so rusty, that they crumbled to dust as it his steel armor.
"Hey," Bard said, "why are you attacking me. I am just exploring."
The skeletons ignored his chatter and the other creature's sword hit Bard. As before, this sword broke into pieces.
Thinking he could turn the skeletons just like Johanna had turned the ghouls, Bard yelled, "Evil creatures begone!" However, this was a talent that clerics, not fighters had.
He swung his sword at the closest skeleton. Hitting him, the skeleton collapsed to the ground; its bones scattered over the ground. He turned and just as easily defeated the second skeleton.
"I did it!" Bard said excitedly.
He looked around the room and saw nothing. He was about to leave the room when he noticed the door in the eastern wall of the room. Remembering what Johanna taught him about searching for traps, Bard searched the door. Not finding any traps, he turned the handle. However it was locked. Remembering he had found a key after fighting with the goblins he reached into his backpack and pulled it out. Fitting it into the keyhole, he turned the key and the door unlocked.
There was a small room, about the size of a closet behind the door. It was empty except for a heavy wooden chest with metal bands around it. There was no lock on the chest. Carefully, Bard stood as far as he could from the chest and use his sword to pry the lid open.
"Good thinking," Bard said, as a blade connected to a metal spring swept out towards him. He quickly stepped to the side as the blade harmlessly went by him. After making sure there were no more traps, Bard searched the chest. There were hundreds of coins in it. He started to close the lid and was about to drag the chest away. Then he noticed a hole in the north wall.
He looked through it and saw a short corridor leading north and turning to the left some distance away. There was a goblin standing guard by a large door with two iron bars across it.
"The goblins must be guarding this treasure! They will be in for a surprise!" Bard started to drag the chest out of the small room, and then he stopped. "This chest will be too heavy for me to carry all the way to Antares. He pulled the remainder of his empty sacks out of his backpack and filled them with the coins. After adding these copper, silver and gold pieces to what he already had, his backpack was getting heavy. After guessing the riddle correctly in the Game Room, his coins had doubled.
Bard walked past the scattered bones of the skeleton and headed south down the main corridor. He was ready to leave the Catacombs and head back to Antares.
"Wait a minute," he said. "I have not explored that chamber yet."
As he walked towards the chamber to his left, he noticed that the floor was covered with a reddish color. He continued on.
The chamber was empty except for the large piles of sand. Bard reached down with his hand and felt it.
"This is not sand! It is rust!"
A loud snort came from the far end of the chamber. Bard stared at a strange looking creature. It was about the size of a baby elephant. Warts covered its entire body. The front legs resembled the claws of a lobster. The monster grabbed a piece of metal in its appendage and brought it up to its snout. The metal quickly dissolved into rust.
"Boy you are ugly," Bard said to the monster.
The monster rushed at Bard and hit him with full force and grabbed the sword from his hands. Soon it was a pile of dust.
Bard quickly backed away and left the chamber. This was a rust monster. He had heard about such creatures. They were extremely difficult to kill. It was not worth fighting this creature since he could possibly lose his sword and armor at the same time. Besides, Rust Monsters were not evil like the goblins, skeleton and rats. They only attack people for their metal, they never hurt people.
An angry shouting came from up the chamber. The goblins discovered their chest had been robbed and were running to catch the thief. This time there were too many of them for Bard to fight. He ran south down the passageway towards the sunlight. Due to the extra weight in his backpack, it was slow going for him. He glanced over his shoulder. The group was getting closer and they were waving their swords.
Running out of the entrance, Bard was outside of the Catacombs running as fast as he was able. He stopped a short distance away to catch his breath. The goblins stopped at the entrance and yelled obscenities. However, they did not venture into the sunlight.
Bard looked at the goblins. Without his sword, he would not be able to fight them; there were just too many of them. Besides, he proved his point. He ventured into the catacombs two times and made it out alive. He fought various monsters, though Trent had disappeared into thin air. He found enough coins to let him to live a life of luxury in Antares. However, he was hoping that a certain group of individuals in town would accept him in their group.
He looked at the sky, and noticed the beginnings of a setting sun. "I better put some distance between me and the Catacombs."