18: Three Doors or One
After the sun sphere raised, the wagons continued through the forgotten path to the valley. The area was thick with woods when the lands became sparser, and the plant life became less and less until the vegetation was down to hard till shrubs. Plants that needed little in water. The wagons came to a halt outside an old structure, set into the side of the valley wall. It was a door three times the height of a man and twice as wide. The metal was midnight black. The only symbol on the door was that of the large circle and smaller circle. Symbols of the demon lords, the old gods etched into an innermost circle.
The guild leaders gathered near the entrance; Master Hoko produced a map and began another glance.
Antonio Flanigan, the Holy Warrior of Bhuul and one of Lincoln’s Purifiers. He was a scruffy black-haired man with an eyepatch; he had lost his eye years ago in a fight with a particular nasty undead ghoul-like creature that enjoyed eating the flesh of the living. His attire was that of the Purifiers, brown leathers with many pouches attached to his belts. These also holstered weapons for combating most demons and undead. Antonio had joined the Grind House Guild years ago; he would be a good candidate for the Dark Arts Division, save he did not like the way Master Martin operated; it was counter to his faith. He gave one good look at the forbidding black door, “We should not be here. These are the marks of the old demon lords. Bhuul warns disturbing the dead gods could have dire consequences for the world.”
Varriss studied the door. His keen experience told him this door was not locked nor trapped from the outside. Looking back to Master Hoko, “Looks safe. Well, are we going in?”
Master Hoko adjusted his feathery green hat and looked down at his map. Masters Oliver and Raven looked down at the map and pointed at various locations. Hoko pointed to the cryptic work, “We are here; there are two other entrances. Here and here.” He paused, “We are going to split the group into three at this point. I will need to add a healer to Master Martin’s team for additional healing. A war priest should do what I think Tammon should work.”
Master Raven responded, “Agreed, I think he would be open to it. I think for this team at this time, and it’s your only option. Most of the other guild members do not even like your team Martin, and not everybody can cope with what you do.”
Master Martin, “Agreed, but I will need at least two other warriors if possible from you, Hiro.”
“Yes, that should be fine. I will send two Blackthorn and Edenton.” Master Hoko added his selection to Oliver’s team, “you know, I think you should expand your group a little more.” Master Martin replies, “I don’t know; I will more than likely have to leave after this mission. If what happens happens, we won’t be able to keep Andrea a secret. We needed this big of a group to get here. She is the key. I am sure there will be some fallout.”
Master Raven scolded, “You should have thought of that before making a pact with her. Though with that said, you must be gaining a lot of research material. Nobody has had your opportunity to study something like her.”
Master Hoko shouted out to everybody, “We are all here now. This is going to be the dangerous part. There are three separate entrances to this vault. Each has its own pits and pearls. We have to clear each wing before we open the center vault, or the monsters from the other wings will be called to defend the center chamber. So we need to take out each section at the same time. We will split into three groups; each master will take their team to a separate entrance, clear the area, and meet in the central chamber. Little Andrea, here is our key to accessing the center chamber. She will wait for the other teams to meet up before opening the center chamber vault door.”
As the groups assembled, Tammon, the dwarven ax-wielding Warpreist of Vasherune, dark-haired, braided beard. John Blackthorn, tall medium built human, dark hair and extra-thick eyebrows, his favored weapon was a longsword and a shield. Richard Edenton, he wore a long black coat, had a high top hat all black. He was a Blast Pistol specialist.
Master Martin spoke in his leadership fashion, “Well, don’t we make a motley crew. Welcome to the Dark Arts Division. Tammon, it’s nice to have your healing skills again. Mr. Blackthorn ready for another fun fight. This is our first time working with Mr. Edenton. I want Blackthorn to team up with Valentine and Edenton to provide ranged cover. Tammon, you are healing support. Urdine, you will be upfront scouting for traps. Wellington and I will provide summoning and containment.”
The other teams grouped up and headed towards the other two entrances of the vault.
Antonio strode up to Charmeine, “Hey my friend, do you think it is odd that we are visiting the ancient site of the demon lords with one who says she’s the new demon lord Ka’Azalin?”
Charmeine laughed at the thought, “I spent time with her, she is no demon lord. I know a god when I see one. You can feel their power when they use grace, it’s like waves of on waves of radiance. No, she’s no demon lord, just a crazy sorcerer with some really messed up life issues.”
The groups continued on their separate ways, Antonio could not believe that Charmeine was that dense, he himself did not trust this mission, though the money was good.
Varriss determined the large metallic door, as heavy as it looked, opened with the barest strength required. The corridor was perfectly smooth; no bricks indicated that magic was used to shape the stone. The party moved into the vault’s dark interior. Varriss slowly moved forward, looking for anything that might pose a threat from floors to the ceilings.
Szan watched down from his perch; he was an imp. A minor demon, only about two feet high, a set of green demonic wings, a slightly barbed tail. He had been brought here to be one of the guardians of this vault, though he was under specific orders to watch for one particular individual. One who radiated grace. He had a small ring that detected the presence of grace; the ring had started glowing when the horned infernal showed up. He had instructions for just this day. His pact with the shadow demon was almost complete, and he would be free to find another duty to fulfill. He waited to see what entrance she would use, then moved into one of the Vaults tiny access tunnels and moved into position. What made traps impossible to detect, is when one did not use an automatic trigger such as a pressure plate or visible rune, One that had to be triggered by an observer.
The group had made slow progress over the last few hours, mostly because of Varriss figuring out what would kill them and what would not. He had been right, most of the time. The traps were difficult and more complex than he would normally encounter. The group had encountered a few small groups of wardpack demons, no more than 4 at a time. If this passage had had the same amount of ward pack demons like the other passages and they were all to come when the center vault door opened, then that would be a problem. Thus each team was working on separately clearing the wings.
The room they encountered had a long narrow bridge, just a beam of stone that had some supports, just six inches wide, but over two hundred feet long, above a dark pit. An archway on the other side of the hazard could be seen. Small infernal green fire globes of light up the walkway by providing hovering light overhead.
“Who thinks up this crap.” Varriss states, “This takes some really sick individuals to design and implement these death traps.” Varriss sighed, “Everybody, rope up. I will cross first to see if I can find a trigger that causes a problem. I recommended at least 10 feet apart for the roping. Once it is safe, I will wave you over.”
Varriss worked his way out on the small beam, six inches, not much room to move around; he was good at this balancing act. He slowly worked his way across, one foot in front of the other. He was looking for a magic rune or physical trigger to a trap. He found none. Varriss had made the crossing without incident. He shouted, “All safe, come across.”
John, Tammon, Richard, Clara, and Martian had tied themselves together and started the slow trek across the beam. Andrea was hovering halfway across, her wings folded back. Tamin slipped a few times; John and Richard could capture him and steady his bulky frame.
Szan waited from his vantage point inside the small room, just big enough for his small body. He had a small window that would be hard to discern from the height. He watched the intruders slowly inch their way across the beam. He wanted to get as many as he could with the trap at his disposal. He had a simple lever; he waited until the group of invaders was halfway across the beam. He waited and waited until the moment was just right. He pulled the lever backward hard, he heard the click, and then the wooden beams swung down. Each was equipped with blades on either side. The wooden beams had blades at the ends to cut ropes and the beam to knock off the invaders. The three beams came down from different angles, left and right, with the last one straight down the middle. The first two knocked John and Richard off, cutting their ropes. Tammon had only one choice; he dived off. The third beam hit Clara strait, knocking her back into Master Martin; they both fell backward and downwards of the beam. Szan watched with his beady red eyes gleefully as the invaders fell to their doom.
Andrea dived, gaining speed on the falling dwarf. She caster her binding chains spell this time with two chains, the spells powered by her infernal magic. Two black chains shot out of the ceiling, streaking past her two bindings to John and Richard. She continued to dive past the two stopped entangled teammates and caught Tammon. She wrapped her arms around his bulky body. The spiked floor was rapidly approaching; she always hated this part, the ground coming up to meet her falling body. She grunted as she had time to level the flight.
The metal spiked floor was only inches below Tammon. He sucked in his breath and pulled his feet up to avoid the metal death below him. Andrea pulled upwards and away from the death metal on the floor. “There you go. Andrea Express!” She deposited Tammon on the other side with Varriss.
Master Martin was floating upwards and over to this side, carrying Clara on his back. He had his own spells to use that could react to this kind of situation. He was still tied to Clara, so that worked well. Clara had the expression on her face, don’t look at me. I feel so foolish.
“Retract,” Andrea commanded the chains to pull her comrades upwards. When they were high enough, she flew over and escorted them to this site and released the chains.
Szan was upset, but even he expected this to fail, they were with the KaAzalin. He moved out of his tunnel and got ready for the next trip, the big one.
Tammon is still a bit shaken, “Thanks, I owe you.”
John also repeated, “Yes, so do I. I owe you one.”
Richard, “Oh, most certainly, I owe you a favor to.”
Andrea thought, “Don’t worry about too much, I will just ask for dinner, a meal of my choice. Agreed?” she smiled; she was going to have fun collecting this later. They all agreed.
Clara just shook her head. Master Martin said nothing, and Varriss kept quiet.