Monday, March 8, 2010

The Necropolis of Alkhezzar - Part VIII

The first beastman ducked its horn covered head in order to pass its seven foot frame through the archway.  It then turned the motion into a charge and attempted to gore the nearest Cateris

The Cateris leaped back from the attack.

"No!" shouted Fafnir, his arm raised involuntarily in warning.  "Don't..." but the warning came too late.  As soon as the Cateris left the hidden pressure plate, the wall to the left of the catman made a loud click.  A giant blade scythed out from a shadowed recess, sliced the head from the Cateris on the plate and buried itself in the charging beastman.  There was a second click and another blade shot from the opposite wall.  The remaining Cateris ducked the blade and it slammed through the dying beastman and battered the corpse of the first Cateris into the wall.

"Get something back on that plate!"  Pops yelled.

The Cateris in the room with Pops snarled.  "Why, little man?  It seems an excellent screen and not the terror your suggested."

"It cut your friend quick enough." Fafnir replied.

"A regrettable fate, but in his death he has provided us a measure of defense."  The blades sliced through the space again and the surviving Cateris somersaulted into the chamber.  Another beastman attempted a dash through the steel trap and was chopped into three pieces, spraying gore everywhere.

"Don't be so quick to relax," Pops cautioned.  The room filled with the grinding sound of stone grating over stone.  The walls to either side of Fafnir shuddered slightly and began to retract.  The rough grinding sound continued to rumble through the chamber.  Small bits of dust and stone flaked out of the seams of the ceiling and fell to the floor.

"Pops?  Don't most incredibly lethal wall crushing traps...uh..." Fafnir trailed off.

"Crush?" Pops offered.

"Yeah."  Fafnir looked around in confusion.  "I don't get it."

"Maybe they wanted to give us more cover ah ah ow!  What the hell?!"  Pops' explanation was cut short as sharp points of metal began emerging between the stones of the wall he was hugging.  "Hey Fafnir!  I think I have your answer."

"Oh this can't be good."  Fafnir replied.  Another beastman dove through the blade trap and landed awkwardly inside the chamber, only losing one limb in the process.  With its remaining three arms, the beastman pushed himself upright and lunged for the wizard.  There was a sharp report and a small ball of fire shot from Fafnir's hand, through the beastman, and burst on the wall behind it.  The creature fell back to the earth, ichor spewing from its mouth and the wreckage of its chest.

Row after row of foot long spikes protruded quickly from both walls.  The grinding noise halted with a heavy clunk.  Pops smirked and was about to say something when, a moment later, the grinding noise resumed.  However, now the walls were pushing in on the room. 

"Hey!  Heeey!  The spikes are moving with the walls now.  They aren't retracting."  Pops called out with genuine concern.  He clutched the jewel tightly to his chest.

"Yeah.  Not good."  Fafnir repeated.  "Pops?"


"Do you have anything?"

"Maybe...if I could get a better look at that plate."  Pops looking back towards the entrance.

"If you could do that, we could just walk out of here."  Fafnir replied with a frown.

"Wizard!  Look out!"  Both Cateris were engaged with a leathery giant of a beastman with tentacles for arms.  The warning came as another beastman with a wolf's face and a chitinous hook for a right arm slipped back the trap and leapt at Fafnir.  The hook slammed into the wizard, knocking him back and dropping him to the ground. 

"Fafnir!"  Pops called out.  With one hand still gripping the jewel, the halfling managed to use his free hand to pull out his sling and, in the same motion, somehow load it.  The sling buzzed around three times before Pops let the shot fly.  It hit the beastman threatening Fafnir and diverted his attention.  With a snarl, the wolf-like thing twisted and leapt for the halfling.  At the last moment, Pops rolled to the side and the beastman, unable to halt his lunge, fell headlong on to the spiked wall.  "Fafnir!"  Pops called again.  "Are you ok?"

"Yeah..."  Fafnir muttered as he clamored back to his feet.  "No more of that, please.  That hurt like hell."  Fafnir focused his attention back toward the entrance, gestured, and another ball of fire zipped from his hands into the darkness beyond the whirling blade trap.  "You know, there was a time when a little fire would chase these things off without any fuss."

"Something must be pushing them."  Pops said.  He had another stone in his sling and was eyeing the beastman impaled on the wall.  "Fafnir...I don't think that trap is the kind that resets until these two walls touch."

"Well then, my friend, you and I are about to have a really bad day."  Fafnir looked at the approaching walls.  "I'll be damned if I can think of a legitimate way out of this trap."

Pops grunted.  "Why is it going so slow?  If I was the one making it, I would have it slam shut as quick as I could."

" know...maybe they wanted you to have time to reflect...on your misdeeds..."

"feh.  It's not moving that slow."  Pops bit his lip as he took a closer look at the walls.  Fafnir fired another fireball out the entrance.  The Cateris finally dispatched the tentacled beastman and turned to look at the pair of adventurers.

"Have you considered the depths of your folly now, halfling?"  The elder Cateris hissed.

"Depths...depths....hey!"  Pops stopped twirling his sling and the stone fell out of it onto the floor.  "Fafnir!  The walls!"

"Yeah...imminent death.  Trust me, the walls are front of mind at the moment."  Another fireball sizzled out the entrance.

"Exactly!  You are thinking about the walls.  We are all thinking about the walls.  Well ... and those blades.  But mostly the walls."  Pops eyes danced with glee.  He pointed at the stone that had fallen from his sling.  "What about the floor? All of this, " he pointed around the room.  "There is something driving it, right.  And Dwarves like contraptions, and they like puzzles.  And this puzzle is not what it seems."

"So the walls won't kill us?"  Fafnir asked in disbelief.

"Oh you bet they will.  Twice over.  And the reason they are moving so slow is to grab and hold our attention.  Forget the walls."

"A little hard to do right now."  Fafnir muttered.

"Forget the walls and focus on the floor."  Pops dropped to his knees and began scraping, pushing, and poking at the floor of the chamber.  "Depths, depths, depths..." he muttered.

"Time is short, my friend."  Fafnir said, his voice tight with concern.  At the same time, there was a solid click from the stone beneath Pops. 

"HA HA!  Take that!"  Pops cried out.  A stone panel dropped six inches and slid out of sight.  The space below the panel was dark.  Pops looked up at his friend, "Your turn to shine, Fafnir.  Get us out of here."  The walls were nearly touching the group. 

Fafnir looked around and said, "Right.  You two, lower yourselves through and hold on to the edge.  Pops, grab on to one of them and don't let go.  Once you are stable, I'll lower myself in and everyone can grab onto me.  If I do this right, we live.  Either way, it is probably going to hurt.  Go go go."  The Cateris slipped through the hold quickly and Pops followed.  There was a moment or two of grunts and a muttered apology.  Then Fafnir kneeled down next to the hole, grabbed the edge with two hands and lowered himself down.  A moment later the spikes slid past the edge of the hole cutting in to everyone's hands.  Fafnir and both Cateris shouted in pain and fear and let go. 

"Grab on!"  Fafnir shouted as the four of them plummeted into the dark.


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After writing op-eds and travelogues for several years, after finishing a few books, and after failing to get the ball rolling with project after project I stumbled into an idea that might just hold my interest long enough to enjoy some level of satisfaction with my writing.