|| Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Earthdawn-ish | Chapter 2 ||
One of the claws missed Robin entirely as she twisted frantically to avoid its onrushing attack; the other scratched her, and she wound up with a bruise from its horn as Harrickstill invisibleunloaded another stream of thorns at its chest and head, some spearing into its open mouth. It was bleeding badly now, but still on its feet. Robin set herself and rammed the toad spear's primary point up into the open mouth, the smaller arm of the y entering one of the existing wounds in its chest.
All Terzin could see was that the thing was still flailing around madly. He nocked an arrow and let fly, buried itself up to the fletching. The others could see the point emerge from its chest. Gurgling, the thing pulled away, yanking the spear out of Robin's hands. It spun around, saw Terzin, staggered forward a few steps with its claws out, and fell. The spear hit the ground and slid to one side, yanking its head around in a hideous fashion and releasing a great gout of blood. Jared hacked at the exposed neck with his sword. The wounds on its back were still closing slowly.
It took several blows, but they severed the head. The body kept flailing for several minutes. Robin retrieved her spear. Terzin pulled his knife free, carved the horn off the creature, and tossed the head into the river. Harrick set the rest of the corpse on fire, not taking any chances with something that could regenerate like that. It reeked horribly.
Standing at the edge of the dock, Terzin could see a little island in the distance, a small hunk of rock poking above the river's surface. His usual curiosity took over; they tied together all the rope they had while Terzin stripped down, his knife between his teeth, then tied the rope around him. He held the lantern high and let the current do most of the work. The river was between four and seven feet deep in this area. He shone the light around the rock. Something small and shiny there. Coins, possibly gems.
Also a cave, leading down. He got up onto the "island's" shore. More worn coins like those they had found in the barracks room, scattered about as if people had been tossing them there, like offerings. He barely had time to notice this before a huge lizard head emerged from the cave, its tongue flickering out bare inches from his face.
Terzin flung himself backward, into the river, as the others hauled madly on the rope to bring him back against the current. The lizard looked around, lifted its head, and roared. The whole cavern seemed to shake with the force of the sound.
It didn't follow him, however, just turned around and went back into its cave. The lantern had gotten a bit wet; they all retreated back into the final landing and closed the doors behind them while they waited for it to dry out. No one had to say it: they needed to get out of this place. Jared was in no shape to continue, Robin was bruised and battered as well, and there was who-knew-what ahead of them deeper in the complex. Which meant they needed to figure out a way back to the compass room that could get them past the slime. Perhaps that upper bridge would lead to a way.
They worked their way back up the stairs, to the bridge. Terzin got out his grappling hook and tossed it up; it caught solidly, and he scrambled up, took a cautious look over the lip of the bridge. A half dozen lizardmen were gathered around a brazier, warming themselves near the door at one end. The river noise had kept them from hearing the group of intruders, but there was no exit that way without a fight that would probably get at least one of them killed. He lowered himself back down and shook his head. They would have to try burning out the slime after all.
They made their way back through the waterfall, with a rope around Jared in case he had trouble again, to the barracks room, and holed up there again to rest before they made the attempt. The alcove nearby was undisturbed, still full of broken furniture, which would provide fuel for their plan, and also for some more torches, since they were running low on light.
"What are we doing here?" Robin mumbled, exhausted.
"We're living out Terzin's dream," Harrick replied sourly.
"Hey! I didn't force anybody to come here with me. You're here of your own free will. If we can get out of here alive, we're rich beyond our wildest dreams already," he pointed out defensively.
"We can do it."
They wedged the door shut and took turns on watch with a small fire going, for about eight hours, and woke feeling somewhat better, though they still agreed it would be best to get out while they could. They gathered up bundles of wood, crossed the falls for what they hoped would be the last time, and retraced their path toward the blocked hall. Robin noted that, according to the tracks, the lizardmen didn't go up to the first level; they kept to the area of the bridge.
There had been a bound elemental in that general area, Harrick recalled, that hadn't appeared to do anything. Given how the first one had blocked their retreat, this one might represent another trap. They climbed the ramp and were within ten feet of the archway when a sharp whistling sound began. It became a roar, then a powerful gust of wind that literally pushed them all back down the ramp.
"Well, now I know what the wind elemental does," Harrick muttered, disgusted, as they all struggled back to their feet. And now they knew why the lizardmen didn't come this way.
"Harrick, can you do something about that?" Terzin asked.
"No," was his honest reply. Somewhere there was the binding, somewhere was the command word, but he had no way of finding them.
I've brought everyone here to die, Terzin found himself thinking in momentary despair. Then he had an idea. He had the grapple; if he could get it hooked onto one of those gargoyles, someone might be able to fight their way up the rope to the arch. And Harrick was pretty sure that if one person could get past it, the thing would shut down. It was certainly worth a try.
Again, when Terzin was ten feet away, he heard the whistling. He threw the grapple, but the wind tossed it back at him when it was only a foot away from the arch. He ducked sharply as it flew straight toward his head and ricocheted around the curve, taking chips out of the stone walls. Then the wind caught his cloak and thew him head over heals down the ramp.
He dusted himself off and tried again. This time he took off his cloak and stood a bit farther away from the arch. No noise started. The hook caught; it didn't trigger the wind. He called the others up. Then Terzin wedged himself into the corner where the wall met the floor, flattened himself against the floor, and began to draw himself hand over hand up the rope.
Again, the wind started as he approached the arch, and at one point it actually pried him off the ground so that he whipped around wildly, more than a foot above the floor. Dust flew into his eyes, forcing him to close them. His hand crossed the arch, and the wind died, dropping him to the ground. The others made their way up the ramp with no trouble, bringing the wood; apparently the spell had been dispersed. They were back in the room with the ugly statues.
Harrick took a torch and went looking for the slime. It was still there, covering about fifteen feet of the corridor, slowly getting larger as it absorbed little motes of dust and so forth. It couldn't eat the pure element of the stone floor, but anything else was fair game.
They bundled the wood, lit it from the torch, and tossed it into the pool. They quickly learned to get it burning well before they threw it, for anything that wasn't actually on fire just added to its substance.
Once they'd gotten quite a bit on there, the blaze suddenly flared up more brightly than it had before, then nearly died, and Harrick sensed the elemental spirit leaving. The green puddle remained, now impotent. Robin poked a stick into the puddle; it didn't turn into more slime.
As a precaution, they tipped over the gargoyles and broke them, in case the elemental was just going to return and make more slime. Then they were in the compass room, just as they had left it. They removed the rods, turned the statue away from the entrance, and made their weary way back up the stairs, which seemed much steeper on the way out.
Terzin peeked out the crypt door at the top. It was just about dawn. And there were four undead standing out there, waiting. They were carrying hatchets. He drew his head back in to let the others know.
"We just have to wait a while, the sunlight will force them to go back to their graves."
"Since when?" Harrick wanted to know.
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Copyright © 2000 Brian Rogers et al