Friday, April 16

Deeper into evil’s den… (Original Fiction by Xan)

Beasley examined the latch to the trap door. If it had not have been for Solcloud’s prayer and St. Cuthbert’s answer with outlining the hatch, they probably would have never located it. Beasley bent over the latch and slowly picked the release lever, lifted the rusty ring, and waved to Zander to open the doorway. With his massive arms, Zander reached over the small lock pick and flexed his massive muscles. The hatch groaned with its own weight as Zander snarled with the effort as he lifted it open.
Solcloud slowly inserted the torch down the opening, a crude ladder made of ropes and driftwood could be seen swinging gently in the flickering light as a small rat jumped from the bottom rung and scurried into the darker shadows. Zander began down the hanging rope ladder, gingerly stepping on each gnarled driftwood rung. After the giant was about twenty feet down the ladder Beasley followed swiftly and with ease like a spider on a web. The armored Solcloud had as much difficulty as the giant as he started, but Zander held the ladder steadier as the knight made his decent. After reaching the bottom, the trio assessed their new location.
“It looks to be a prison.” Solcloud speaks the obvious, as the others look roll their eyes at him.
“You think?” Said the small halfling already running around examining each cell. The smell of rotting flesh, moldy cloth, and refuse filled their nostrils as they looked around the room. The rooms’ walls had a slight curve; each cell’s door seemed to be within a step or two of one another. The circular room held ten cells set up around the ladder that they had descended down, the ladder seemed to be a constant reminder to the occupants how close to escape they were, but unable to grasp the ladder that dangled just out of arms reach. One heavy wooden door lead out of the room between two rusty iron cells.
“Zand..!” Beasley choked on his own words as he stood by one cell and looked between the bars. His face drained of color and his hand over his mouth in shock. Zander slowly approached the cell. With his keen eyes he blinked to adjust in the darkness and looked into the darkness in the back of the cell, what he saw nearly stole his breath away.
“Jenny?” Zander’s voice quivered as he held the bars in his hands, his arms flexed and knotted as he attempted to break the bars, they didn’t so much as creak under the great strength of the half-ogre. The barmaid lay motionless in the back of the cell huddled up in the dirty rags and refuse of the cell. Her beauty dimmed by signs of abuse and neglect. She was not moving.
“Jenny, are you OK?” The giant struggled to catch his voice as he wrestled to open the door his muscles ached from the strain but these bars were meant to hold beasts stronger than even he was.
“It’s no use.” Solcloud said softly as he tapped sympathetically on the giants bulging shoulder. “We will have to find another way in. I have discovered something; come over here and see.”
Solcloud turned with the torch and held it to the opposite end of the circle of cells. In the dim torchlight, the feathered plume of ‘Betty’ could be seen in the cell. Most of Mayvn’s other personal effects could be seen strewn about the cell as well. The bard was nowhere to be found. Tiny eyes glared in the torchlight under the hat and then a large spider about the size of Beasley’s head skittered out from underneath into a crack on the far side of the cell.
“There is more going on here than a contest of strength and survival.” Solcloud snarled in a vengeful tone. “It seems we have stumbled onto a torture chamber holding area. The slaves on the surface are more than just slaves; they were the survivors of torture.”
“I don’t care much about these empty cells.” Zander spat out a primeval growl from deep inside his soul. “I only care about getting Jenny out of here alive.”
The giant pushed his way through the two other adventurers and through the door. Looking to his left and right he observed a hallway with a door directly across from the holding area, as well as two wooden doors to his left and to his right. A light could be seen flickering underneath the door to the right. Zander wasted no time in taking out his hammer, twisting his cat ring and faded from sight.
A whirlwind of fury, a primeval roar, and a rush of teeth were all the guard could see as Zander burst through the door and clubbed the guard standing next to the door before he could blink crushing his skull. The second guard who had been sitting lazily at a table in the center of the room tried to jump to his feet. As all four feet of the guards chair rattled to the ground a hammer appeared out of nowhere shattering his left shoulder and sent him flying across the room.
“Zander!” Beasley shouted as he rounded the corner. Another guard, who had been standing on the other side of the door, rounded the door and swung his long sword at the small halfling as Beasley tumbled through the door and under the table. The momentum carried him under the table and he slammed into a lever protruding from the ground.
Solcloud followed the two into the fray. “There are more coming!” He looked to the chaos as he entered the room. “An alarm must have been triggered. Hurry, prepare to defend yourselves!” He grabbed the off balance guard who had missed Beasley and threw him to the ground. The guard easily fell with a thud.
Solcloud took a defensive position by the doorway, surprising entering guards with a quick swing of his sword or a slam with his shield. Zander faded in and out of the material plane roaring and whirling with rage. The guard slumped in the corner shook the cobwebs from his head and nursed his shoulder as he stood up limply holding his longsword in his hands.
“There are three of them!” The guard shouted as he spotted Beasley under the table. As the guard dove for the small halfling, Beasley twisted to his left and slashed at the guards’ good arm.
“Ha HA!” Came the gleeful cheer from the small thief as this small sword struck true. The guard dropped his sword and the halfling finished off the guard and dove back into the shadow of the table.
Zander’s hammer and face seemed to fade in and out of view as he whirled and roared like a raging ghost. The whirl of air and the smell of ozone filled their nostrils and it seemed like a thunderstorm were brewing in the room. The knight swung wide with his sword at an entering guard. The guard ducked below the long arch causing Solcloud to slip and fall with a metal crash. The hammer appears in front of the guard and just before impact, it vanishes. The guard blinks and says a small prayer to an unknown god, but to no avail as Beasley leapt from his hiding place under the table and drives his sword right into the heart of the guard.
“Zander, you had better control yourself, or I am going to kill them all myself.” Beasley jokes as he dives again back under the table.
“One more!” Shouts the fallen paladin. Solcloud takes his shield and slams the back of the guards’ knees as he steps through the door. The guard yells in agony as his knees crack. Beasley, like a stalking cat, leapt from under the table and drove both swords into the felled guards back.

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