(Only lightly edited but it should be very readable!)
Part 7 Let's write a story! Previous winner: The eye! (Start reading the story in entirety here or skip down to the bottom. I’ll put a few ***** to denote the newest stuff.
Thunder rolled above a shadowy form as they arrived in a village deep in the woods. They headed to the nearby tavern, a good a place for some rest and a fine drink. It was snowing and there were very few people out as the moon reached its pinnacle. As the mysterious form pushed open the door of the tavern, the barkeep looked up at them.
It was a blonde haired woman. She struggled to catch her breath and her right hand clutched a spot at the front of her chest as she pushed the door back closed. She stumbled forward. Her leather armor was tattered at her shoulder and blood ran between her fingers as she gripped a still hidden wound.
He knew this woman. He had told her to never return here after she was caught by the king's men and he managed to help her escape.
"What are you doing back? Why did you come here?" the barkeep asks.
The woman leaned over the bar, nearly collapsing. She reached at her hip for one of her last potions.
"We must hurry," she said, fumbling a near-empty red elixir to her mouth.
The door slammed open behind her and the rogue jerked to face what she believed to be her enemy.
In the darkness of the void stood a dwarf with a large hammer,
"They are comin'! I tried to lead them away but this is the only village and I even had Rakla distract and take down two of them. They have called for more forces. We cannot stay here. We must go."
The barkeep looks at both of them. "Why? You said if I helped you before you'd leave this life. I only just helped you before. They nearly figured it out. They know you came here. They will figure it out. I can't help you again."
"Master Barkeep, I do not know your relationship with my dear friend here," the dwarf says, "But she said there are tunnels. Tunnels where we can hide! I'd rather not die right now."
"I can't do it again, perhaps if you appeal to the king? He will--"
"That king is a bastard," she yelled, "A fool that deserves the blades coming for his neck."
The barkeep stared the rogue up and down blinking, "So it is no long petty crime. You now seek the role of an assassin? If your mother--"
"Mother is dead because her husband is a drinking coward."
"I am your father."
"Sure. You did your part."
The rogue pushed herself up from the bar and walked towards the door.
"We must go, Master Dwarf, this man will be no use to us. It was a mistake to think he would."
The dwarf adjusted his hammer in his hands, "Caves sounded nice. I guess we'll opt to smash a few more skulls instead."
"Wait," the barkeep said, "The caves are overrun. It was nothing but a place to store my ale under the tavern even then but I closed that way some time ago. It would take time to clear it and then, well, there are monsters of a different kind there."
"We won't bother you with it," the rogue said, peering out from the tavern.
In the distance, there was shouting. Their enemy was approaching. The rogue closes the door.
"They are upon us."
"Master Barkeep, I'll have a drink. Ale, please. And sorry for the coming mess. It'd be best you just hide if you don't have a fighting hand in you."
"Don't bother," the rogue said, "He only know about polishing glasses. Prepare yourself, perhaps our friends will reach us here. That is our only chance."
The barkeep nervously took a glass and filled it with ale. He could hear the shouting becoming louder. He set the ale on the counter to which the dwarf laughed and happily grabbed the glass.
"What a fine night for a drink."
The rouge sprinted around the tavern, darkening the candles and braziers, filling the area with a smoky haze and leaving only a small candle above the drinking dwarf as the lone source of light.
The barkeep stared at the doorway as it was kicked in.
The dwarf placed his glass down leaving only suds, "You're not a very good barkeep either, don't you have a bigger glass? One with a handle. I'll take another ale."
Several figures appeared in the doorway.
"No more antics!" one of them shouted. "We'll have your head now, a very easy thing to take off considering my sword already struck your chest."
"Well if that isn't rude," the dwarf said with a slurp of his freshly poured ale, "I don't believe your sword touched me. In fact, I'm enjoying this drink quite a bit and we both know your sword hasn't been in anything in quite some time."
The dwarf laughed at his own joke as the men passed the void of the doorway and begin towards him at a slow creep.
"If it isn't the good ole' Master Rilr? I didn't think I could see a full man back there in the woods but your stench is beyond recognizable."
"Ha, I could say that about your wife you overgrown 'shroom. You know, I know a shadow elf that could take that face of yours and make it into something useful. Perhaps then your Mrs' would take a bath."
"Enough of this!" the man shouted, "We know she is here. Seize him!"
The dwarf hopped off the barstool with his ale in one hand and his hammer in the other, "Now, I have been more than peaceful this entire exchange, but finishing my drink takes priority at this moment. Besides, two of your guys are already out!"
Rilr began to chug his drink as the host turned to see two of their own on their backs.
They ran to their comrades. The original man slammed his sword into one of the nearby tables.
"Their throats are slit. You merciless bitch!" he screamed, "Burn this tavern down! She won't leave her dwarf here to die."
"But sir," one of the other men questioned, "You said to keep the battlemage on the outskirts and they doused all the fires save that lone candle."
"Are you really this incompetent? Go outside, get some damn torches, and burn this place!"
That man and two others turned and ran outside. Rilr finished his ale and set it down. As the man in charge of the group turned back he saw that the dwarf now grasped his hammer with both hands.
"You're fairly dumb, dear sir. I'd use that point sword to stab me while you had the chance and now I've had two ales and find I really don't want you to burn down this here tavern. I'd say you should just leave."
The man laughed, his two other henchmen beside him fanned out as if to get behind the dwarf.
"There are still three of us."
A whishing sound was in the air and the two men at either side of him grasped their necks and fell.
The rogue dropped from the shadows just behind the lone man, the silhouette of her blade danced through the air and he parried upwards, spinning to put himself closer to the door.
"You can't hide from fire. You won't escape this"
His other men returned with torches. Now, it seemed that more of his own men had made it from the woods.
"When the fire gets too hot, feel free to come out. We will wait."
The entryway was set ablaze and in the flames, the two men the rogue had struck last gasped with raspy breaths, as blood was coughed from their mouths.
The dwarf went to both of them and stomped them.
"Now, what?" the dwarf asked.
The barkeep had already begun to move several barrels on the far side of the room.
"This way, we have to try the tunnels."
The rogue lit a torch that Rilr had from the flames and looked a last time at their pursuers, waiting outside like the confident pricks they were. Especially the one man, a skilled swordsman himself. The had trained together in the times well before this night.
You still don't have me. -she said to herself as she stared at him.
As they ran to where her father was, he had cleared away enough of the blockade he had constructed to reveal a cellar door.
"This way, we must go down. The cave system is vast but there are worse things this way. I have had this barred for some time."
As they descended down into the damp cellar and the entrance to a very large cave opening, the barkeep paused.
"This is different," he said, looking to recent upturned dirt that went another way.
"Another cave?" the dwarf asked.
"Yes, the original cave is that large one there. This one goes a different way. The stones deeper in are-- are glowing."'
"We must pick one," The rogue said
“I vote the glowing one,” Rilr said. “We already know the other ones are dangerous. We should take a chance on what we don’t know.”
“I agree,” the barkeep said.
As they moved toward the glowing stone cave, the rogue rushed ahead to where the path opened up quite a bit more than she expected. They were under the village. She recognized the stone that wasn’t glowing was of the same construct as the temple to the god Etha in the village.
“Did the elves ever delve within these lands?”
“Ha!” the dwarf laughed, “Elves delve? That’s as likely as I swearing off ale!”
“No, not that I know of,” her father said. “I do know the foundations of the village were in existence before the men came this way. The ocean is not too far away, perhaps, it was the sea peoples of the far north? I have heard they had glowing stones within their ruins.
“He means the Dwemhar,” Rilr said.
“I’ve heard the term,” the rogue stated, “They’re an extinct race. Defeated by the elves.”
“I’m not sure where you learned your history but it was not from me,” her father said. “This is not even close to correct.”
“No, iI didn’t learn anything from you.. Let us just get through this place. The others will wonder what happened to us.”
As they proceeded forward, they took a path that twisted to the left, leading to a passage with a massive wall that reached much higher than the carved passages of their path which now led them downward.
As the torchlight revealed the painted images on the mural beside them, the rogue saw glyps and markings that seemed to show a people bowing before a set of mountains. Proceeding further, the story revealed itself with more imagery. There was a shroud of clouds over the sun. The people that had been bowing before the mountains were now aflame and a great wave of water swept over the lands.
“I was right,” her father said, “This tells their story. These people were of the lost race, those that were swept away with the coming of the seas to the North. Perhaps, when we get to safety, I call tell you more of this my child.”
The rogue ignored him. Moving forward with the dwarf, they came to a sealed doorway. There were several markings and a lever to the right. The markings were of a mountain, a star, a moon, and an eye. Near the lever, the dwarf knelt down to find many layers of cloth. As he lifted the cloth, a broken skull stared up at them.
“This is a dwarf but he is long dead,” Rilr said.
“This must not be the way that whoever made the hole in the cellar took,” the barkeep said. “This way is sealed and even this corpse did not make it through.
The dwarf rummaged through the remains and found a parchment.
“It is a map. He was exploring this place. The ruins here are Dwemhar and go under the entire expanse of the nearby woods. The elves in this region must have came later.”
The rogue knelt down, seeing a red colored binding sticking out from under some of the bones. It was a book, a journal of some kind. The dwarf snatched it away and flipped to one of the final pages.
“Okay, this door leads to something that our friend here was searching for. Something of value. He said the first two markings were of the heavenly bodies. The star and then the moon. He stated that he had already figured out that the room he was standing in was booby trapped and that he believed the correct order made sense to him and was as any dwarf would assume.”
“What in the gods does that mean?” the rogue questioned. “Let’s just go back. This is pointless. There must be another way.”
But as the rogue turned to go the other way they found their path blocked. Where before was an open passage was now a solid pillar of stone.
She drew one of her knives and scanned the room, “Someone must be watching us.”
“Places of the ancients do not require living eyes to sense those of life within them,” the barkeep said. “We must choose.”
“Screw choosing,” the dwarf said. “This guy here made jokes about assumptions and look at him now! I have a small bit of Dwarven Dust. We can blow our way back out the way we came. I’d rather risk that than whatever choosing wrong here results in.”
“Come on, that will not work,” the barkeep said. “The explosion would kill us all.”
“No, I can do it,” Rilr said.
“That’s too risky, even for you, Rilr,” the rogue said. She pointed at the door, “We must try this way.”
The dwarf put away his canister of dwarven dust and grumbled to himself.
“Okay,” the barkeep said. “A dwarf would consider the mountain last, in my understanding. It being the final one and a place a dwarf would call home.”
The rogue shook her head, “The eye represents the mind’s eye. It is the final one. That dwarf picked what he thought was correct. He was wrong.”
“So sure about the mind’s eye?” Rilr asked. “Dwarves are older than your race. They know very well of who created this place and the significance of what you speak of. The Dwemhar were powerful users of mind magic, capable of driving another lesser form insane, shifting their bodies through the physical realm in a flash, and literally causing the vessels of their enemies to burse bringing instant death. Any dwarf would know this. This dwarf was an explorer, likely well versed in this very lore. You are wrong. The mountain is the final one. This corpse picked the eye.”
“If he knew this, he picked incorrectly still,” the barkeep said with a gulp, “We need to pick. I can feel the air leaving this passage. A continued debate will leave us all to join the dwarf and I’d rather not ask him the answer in the afterlife.”
The rogue reached forward and pressed the stone with the eye.
“We’ll trust the Dwemhar.”
The door quaked before them and gears spun behind the rocks. The entire door glowed blue with a flash of white down the center and a crystal eye at the top of the door flashed white several times. A ray of light from the eye moved from the top of the room to the ground, illuminating each of them as the door began to open.
“We are not Dwemhar,” the barkeep said, “but we solved the puzzle and the door opens. But we are not-”
A screaming sound pierced their ears. The door had opened but the eye above the door was a last trick of the ancient race. The puzzle was only part of the riddle. Those of Dwemhar blood were allowed passage not elves, dwarves, or most definitely, the race of men.
Several crystals emerged from the walls of the caves and begin to spin around them. The passage before them was open, a lone road high above cavernous depths to either side.
“Run!” Rilr shouted, pushing through the opening and sprinting ahead of the others.
The rogue and the barkeep followed as quickly as their feet would carry them. The crystals formed a around a golden disc, zooming around them before moving along the lower regions of the caverns and up along the walls of the monstrous passage they ran through.
Though the road before them was simple stone, the passage they were was like a vault of the lost race. Golden walls glowed with blue lines that went from the ceiling high above to the lower depths beyond sight.
Energy surged in the long-dormant constructs and more crystals emerged, spinning about them. The golden disc from the doorway hovered at the far end of the room. A massive stony form, unlike that of the designs around them, set just below the disc. As the group reached this area, they came across several more bodies. These were much different.
“Rusis,” the barkeep said, “The enemies of the Dwemhar. They had reached this place. Intruders, attempting to sabotage it perhaps.”
“Rusis? Like those that can cast elemental magic?”
“They were not so rare at one time,” the dwarf said, “At one time, they had cities, an entire culture. At least, unlike the Dwemhar, they still exist in the world.”
The golden disc lowered down into the rocks before them.
“These rocks are not from the cave. These rocks came later,” Rilr pointed. “These Rusis placed this stone here. To keep something down.”
The barkeep scanned the room around them.
“A door, a simple door!”
He ran to the door and pulled it open. Looking up a passage that lead back to a simple rocky cave, he noticed the broken ruins of another puzzle door.
“The Rusis came this way. We can get out this way. Come, the air moves beyond here. The outside world must not be too far!”
The rogue went to catch up with her father just as the spinning crystals took positions above the rocky form where the disc had descended. In a flash of blue, the crystals released energy, shattering the rocks and sending a shockwave of energy outward throwing the dwarf some distance away.
“Rilr!” the rogue shouted.
In the rubble of the rocky prison, a construct unlike any the rogue had seen, emerged. It walked on four articulating legs, with horns atop its head that spun in place. Energy surged atop what could be described as its head. There was a moment where a sudden shrill sound echoed across the room and a blast of white fire struck just near Rilr.
The dwarf rolled, brandishing his hammer.
The rogue dropped her torch and sprinted, jumping atop the construct. She thrust her blade into one of the bends in its metal form but it spun, knocking her nearly into her father by the door.
The horns of the beast shifted, as it moved towards the barkeep and rogue. The shrill sound filled the room again.
The barkeep grabbed for his daughter, pulling her close to him. The rogue looked at him and in an instant, an enveloping shimmer ward extended out from him. The blast of fire struck and the ward shattered but somehow- both of them were unharmed.
Rilr growled, “Blasted Dwemhar beast!”
The dwarf shouted a battle cry, running and swinging his hammer in an overhead arc, smashing into one of the horns and causing the construct to stumble away from him. He sprinted forward, smashing one of its legs, causing a bolt of lightning to leap out of the form as it began to smoke. It attempted to stomp the dwarf, but instead began to stumble near the edge were the caverns dropped into the depths below. It was too late for the construct. The dwarf struck it again, sending two of its legs off the edge. A shrill sound filled the air and in its last moment, Rilr was struck white the white blast just as the construct stumbled over the edge.
Rilr flew backward, striking the cavern wall just near the rogue. She ran to him.
“Rilr!” she said, shaking him.
His armor was burned across his chest and his hair was burnt and smoking.
The barkeep knelt down, “He is breathing but just so. He needs a healer. Do you have any more potions?”
The barkeep through the dwarf over his shoulder, moving towards the open door and the passage out.
“Come, we must get to the elves in this region.”
“They won’t help a dwarf!”
The barkeep and rogue began up the passage leading away from the caverns that were seemingly darkening as their presence left.
“Well most men won’t be of use right now and we do not know where your friends are or much less, where we are.”
As they ascended up higher and higher, they came to an area covered in rubble and came across rail carts. It was a dwarven mine considering their token adorned rail carts could not be mistaken for any of the simple ones used by other races.
The rogue looked at her father, thinking back to how he had used some type of power.
“What did you back there?”
He glanced down at her and then stepped onto the rails.
“We need to go this way,” he pointed to the right,”I can feel the shift in winds.”
“You ignore me, haven’t you done that enough in your lifetime.”
The barkeep sighed and looked down at her.
“I wasn’t around because I was a danger to you. Don’t you know how people like me end up? How those like us? In all your travels, you do not know one race that can summon magic without a wand, staff, or enchantments?”
“Rusis. You… we? We’re Rusis?”
“I never told your mother. She didn’t need to know. Most Rusis women are sold into slavery. Even half-bloods like you. If I was away, the chance of you discovering your power by accident was low. It takes some manner of learning to even awaken it. I am unpracticed now, old, weak. The ability to save us before was something just… well, that just happened. We need to get moving and get Rilr to someone who can heal. That is a power I do not have.”
As the barkeep moved down the passage with the dwarf over his shoulder, the rogue was shocked by this revelation. Her thoughts toward her father, though still strongly on her mind, had changed. She had seen the Rusis slaves and what was done to them in the far eastern lands. As they moved at an upward angle, she could see a glow of moonlight shining down.
The rogue was so deep in thought, she barely realized the many bodies of creatures they stepped over.
“Father,” she said.
“Keep moving! I fear a trap is upon us. The air is foul with fresh blood.”
The mine they emerged from had been home to some type of beasts that were difficult to discern in the little light they had. The torch had gone out just in time for them to reach the outside world. The smell of fresh air was a refreshing scent.
The outside world was still and white. The snow upon the ground was fresh but as the barkeep set the dwarf against a nearby tree, the rogue knelt down to look at the bodies. She wondered what had killed the creatures.
“Your friends, who are they?” the barkeep asked.
“Rangers,” she said, “Most in rebellion against the King.”
As she knelt down, she knew the rangers coming through here would have shot the creatures from afar with arrows.
HOW WERE THE CREATURES KILLED? Arrows or something else? Vote here: