It didn’t take long to find a suitable guide who was willing to show them the right direction, as there was only one man known to do that kind of things. The price he asked was a mere two hundred and fifty golden pieces, an amount none of the adventurers had in their pocket, but after a bit of haggling, he agreed to escort the adventurers for a few pennies less. He even guaranteed they would get their money back, once they got out of the dungeon.
“Seeing the fact that that will never… ever… happen,” their guide smiled. Snails shrugged with his shoulders:
“Well, my most fortunate guide, I think differently.”
“Aye,” Lee agreed, “My war axe has claimed many battered skulls and isn’t done yet.”
“Alright,” the guide replied, “In that case, I’ll leave you guys here. I think you can manage to do the rest on your own. The dying part, that is.” Warryn grinned and almost immediately engulfed his body with fiery flames. Wielding a ball of deadly magic in his right hand, he then turned to the man that was about to walk away.
“Not so fast. I think I rather want to claim my gold now, if that is all right with you.” The escort looked at the wizard briefly with discontent, then shook his head and made a subtle motion with his hand. Before any of them could react, he then disappeared, only to reappear in the distance, on top of the mountain peak. No way they could reach him.
“A shame,” Warryn said disappointed. He negated the effect of his fiery spells and turned back towards the dungeon. With Lee in the front, they then left. Snails even smiled. He knew everything would work out the way he liked it.
The Asylum of Terrors itself didn’t seem to be that “likeable” though. The butterflies that formed Elvin’s body fluttered nervously when they saw the skeletons that filled the room on both sides. Small, large, slim or broad-shouldered, all sizes seem to be represented in this room and by the looks of it, all races as well. In a short glance, Lee could distinguish the tail of what seems to have been a small dragon, while Warryn set fire to a couple of deceased goblins. The room was obviously a warning, displaying its victims in ways that could only indicate the horrors that will be introduced further on. Snails even wondered for a moment why one of the skeletons was not only scorched from top till bottom, but also seems to have lost a leg or two. Seems to be a bit… overkill?
“Blood must be spilled before you can enter,” Orsik mumbled when he saw the inscription on the other side of the room. It was on top of a solid door, an unbreakable object, even for those with the might of a giant. Lee shrugged his shoulders.
“Let me handle this,” he said as he grabbed for his war axe. Securely, he moved his axe towards his left thumb and carved it with a small cut, just big enough to release a single drip of blood, which he spilled on the door handle. Nothing happened.
“I think, my good friend, you have to be slightly more bloodied to satisfy the spirits of this dungeon,” Snails concluded. Lee nodded and moved his axe again with a slow pace towards his thumb, but suddenly, his movement stopped. He looked at his thumb, which looked fine. He looked at the hand that was carrying his axe, which looked fine. He looked down towards his stomach… and there was a blade sticking out of it.
“Yes, my fellow colleague?”
“You wanted to check out whether the door would open or not. Well here you have it: it doesn’t work… yet. But that can always change… let me try again!”
“No, I meant: why do you get in range of my war axe when you backstab me?”
“What do you mean with… oh… crap.” Lee immediately pushed the Halfling back, reaching for his war axe, just before Snails could get in fighting position himself. With a fiercesome blow, the dwarf planted the axe in Snail’s stomach and prepared for another attack just when he heard the sound of a door opening.
“It worked!” Lee grinned, “I spilled enough blood. Thanks to our most unfortunate Snails buddy here who dared to invoke the wrath of Lee Putter upon him. Sorry about the pain little one; I aimed to kill, but apparently I missed.”
“Lee,” Orsik spoke.
“It has a door handle you know.”
“Aye, so I know.”
“Then why didn’t you use it?”
“Things like that never works in a dungeon. Magical tricks and such.”
“Then why did the door open when I used the door handle?”
“You opened it by using the handle?”
“That is what I say, yes.”
“And it worked?”
“It did so.”
“Well, it obviously wouldn’t have worked if I did not spill enough blood. Fix the little man with your heals cleric, and let’s go!”
The corridor they continued their journey through had a distance of no more than a couple of yards, but it was a clear extension of the horrors they had just passed. The walls almost seemed to be darkened by something… well… dark. It was as if all the shadows in the world had chosen these specific walls to make their permanent home. Even the bright light Warryn made seemed to be dimmed somehow. The Asylum of Terrors wasn’t a natural place. It was old, but missed the dust it should have after centuries of absence. And although everything was empty, nothing made the sound of a normal echo. It felt more as if the sound was created and captured somehow, screaming to be released from its spot, but trapped till it was no more. Like everything in the Asylum would be captured and consumed in the end. And when they discussed the mysteries, they knew that they all felt the same.
But there was no time to think of these sinister feelings. As soon as they entered the room on the other side of the corridor, the adventurers felt alerted. Six pillars stood there silently waiting, almost like they were trying to fill the empty room, but could not block out the lonely feeling that embedded the chamber. The adventurers however, were not alone. They heard the sound of bones touching the floor. A loud and clear “pock” that was originated from one of the doorways. With a silent murmuring, Warryn expanded his light, showing the entire room… and the enemies that stood there. They grinned as only undead can do. And with their four arms they carried four swords, in which they were obviously trained in to do. Elvin gulped. And Orsik, the cleric, almost stuttered as he gave the order to attack, but there was no way he would show that kind of weakness.
When the order was given, Lee didn’t hesitate, in the foolish believe that his shiny plate armor would protect him from any attacks that would be made against him. He shouted and challenged the skeletons to come and get him, for which he was immediately punished and received eight attacks for. Most of the attacks were indeed blocked by his shield, and the one blow that carved his flesh only made Lee more enthusiastic for the fight. His fury brought slaughter amongst his enemies, but they didn’t die just yet.
Snails didn’t wait for any command, but immediately opened fire after moving an inch or two to have the perfect angle to shoot from. His arrows, launched by a decent size crossbow, made its way to the battle, missing Lee, but crippling the attacking skeleton enormously. A bone shattered. A crackling sound was heard. But the skeletons didn’t die just yet.
Orsik and Elvin assaulted the skeletons in melee combat and as the cleric bashed with his enormous Mordenkrad, the elf used his primal powers to damage the horde of skeletons with a single swarm of wasps. As Warryn finished this grand performance with one of his own spells, there was little left of the enemy forces. But they didn’t die just yet.
In fact, the skeletons just seemed to have learned a thing or two about the brave adventurers… and that is that they aren’t the people to mess around with. Instead of engaging the cleric, or the fighter for that matter, one of the skeletons returned to the doorway… and activated a switch. A loud noise arose and screams filled the rooms. Only when the dust disappeared, the three remaining adventurers could see what happened. The corridor behind them had collapsed. A huge blockade prevented Lee, Elvin and Orsik from reaching Snails and Warryn on the other side… if they were even alive to begin with. Now the tides had clearly turned. The skeletons outnumbered them with four to three. And they had thirteen more weapons to swing around with.
“Is that what you call fighting?!” Lee laughed as he blocked one of the attacks, but he breathed loudly under the constant pressure of the twelve attacks he had to withstand every few seconds. His shoulder already showed the first signs of injury. It wouldn’t take long before he was forced to the ground. Still his bravura didn’t end as he said:
“Ha, and stay down!” when he managed to knock the skull off, of one of the skeletons. The skeleton didn’t stay down. As a matter of fact, they didn’t even seem to care.
Orsik stumbled away from the fight, when he got hit by the same creature he just attacked. With his hand to his chest and the piercing wound that was clearly in it, he moved to the other side of the room, where he mumbled a quick prayer to the Raven Queen, hoping she didn’t welcome their other two party members just yet. And then he activated the lever again. With loud protest, the wall lifted. And the first thing he saw was an huge ball of magical energy launched out of it.
Orsik duck, but the ball wasn’t aiming for him. However, a skeleton in front of him was not that lucky and almost got knocked over by the impact, only to be pierced by Snails’ bolts afterwards. But the skeletons didn’t die just yet.
There is one thing people have to know about wizards, especially evil wizards. When they want things done, they will manage it, regardless the price others have to pay for it. It isn’t unheard off that they will burn an entire city, just to kill a single irritating rat. Warryn isn’t much different. When his eyes light up, when the wrinkles of frustration mark his face, you know bad things are going to happen. Very bad things. And not just for the enemies. Just. Very. Bad. Things.
“You did not enjoy comfort in life,” Warryn mumbled, closing his eyes, as he prepared the spell.
“You did not enjoy the peace of death,” Warryn continued, as he rose his palm.
“But I can tell you one thing: YOU WILL REST NOW!” An explosion originated at one of the tiles on the floor where a skeleton was standing on, but instead of fire they could feel air bursting out of it. Warm, soothing air. An atmosphere where a person could stand in forever. One that reminds the person of the old days, where he slept in a bed and was cuddled by his mother. Snails remembered, and felt asleep smiling. Elvin remembered, and felt asleep calmly. The skeletons didn’t remember, but felt unconscious nonetheless.
“Finish them!” Orsik shouted, and the adventurers did. While the skeletons where lying defenseless on the ground, Lee and Warryn turned the room into a complete massacre. And when they were done, the battle was over. But Snails didn’t wake up just yet.
“Good work Warryn, we couldn’t have done it without you. Now tell me how we can wake him up so we can continue on our journey.” Warryn looked at Snails and then back at Orsik. While scratching his beard, he thought, and thought, and thought a bit more. And every minute that passed Orsik’s eyes narrowed a bit more, until the moment had passed he was just looking unhappy.
“You do know how we can wake him up right?” Orsik asked impatiently. Warryn looked again at Snails, a little Halfling with a thumb in his mouth and a childish smile on his face, but shrugged his shoulders.
“I don’t know. Never thought of that. We wizards break things, we don’t fix it,” Warryn replied. Lee chuckled, at which Orsik gave a devastating look at. Lee clearly didn’t care.
“But Elvin managed to wake up. How did you do that?” Orsik asked. Warryn took a short glance at the elf, who displayed his radically hyperactive self one more time as he run around and triggered the various traps that were scattered amongst the room. Orsik sighed.
“Okay, you are right, Elvin never seems to sleep anyway. But there must be a way right?”
“I can set him on fire.”
“You are not setting him on fire…”
“Why not, it is not like you have any moral obligations to keep him alive.”
“No, but I am the one that has to heal him then. If you can heal him afterwards, fine, go ahead, burn him.” Warryn thought, and thought, and thought again. But in the end, he knew it wasn’t worth a healing potion, although setting someone on fire always is really funny to do.
“I know what we can do,” Lee said, “We can steal his equipment, leave him here to rot, and just go away.”
“Excellent idea I might say. We can also set him on fire afterwards.”
“Stealing you say?” Orsik replied, completely ignoring Warryn’s words. The idea… intrigued him. It wasn’t as if the cleric came here for the fun of slaughtering monsters. No, it was his greed that made him form this group of adventurers. It was his greed that made him crave for the loot they would find here. But, seeing the fact that they didn’t find a single piece of equipment yet, this solution seems to be formidable.
“We are not going to kill him, nor leave him, but I agree with you Lee, he wouldn’t miss… a couple of items… right?” With a smile, he grabbed his bag of holding and placed it next to Snails’ head, whereafter he slowly started to pillage the poor rogue’s body. Of course it was unclear when the Halfling would in fact wake up, but one thing was certain: it wouldn’t happen in the next few minutes. At least. Orsik had the time to rob him of all the treasures the rogue carried around and still play dumb when the Halfling woke up and discovered his tragic loss. That was the idea. Of course, such ideas do not work out properly if the rogue slowly started to open his eyes before; let’s say, just when Orsik discussed the market price of the crossbow he just took. At that time, Orsik’s death was inevitable.
“Cleric, what do you think you are doing?” Snails said when he saw what was going on. Orsik stuttered, looking at Lee and Warryn for any back up, but of course they were on the other side of the room, probably enjoying the upcoming fight they had just created. And if it wasn’t bad enough, he could also see the dwarf tripping over the first magical item found in the Asylum, a war axe, which he claimed for himself.
“So, what did you think you were doing?” Snails asked again. Orsik cursed Lee for his suggestion, but didn’t show his frustration. What was he going to say: Lee set him up to this? Like he would ever admit that he had done the very thing the mindless dwarf suggested. Looking Snails in the eyes, with an straight face and no sense of remorse, he simply answered:
“If you can’t keep up with the pace, then you stay behind. It is what we have all agreed to.” For a moment, it was as if Snails could kill Orsik right there and then, punishing him for the almost obscene manner in which he tried to justify the pillaging of his body. But then he smiled. A smile far worse than any attempt to kill the cleric. It was the smile that underlined an hostility that would last a life time. If both Orsik and Snails would make their way out of the Asylum, only one of them would actually reach the city. Snails nodded:
“Oh, my dearest of all colleagues, I understand. I understand it perfectly well…”