Week 28, Storming the Castle
Next night, the black castle curdles on schedule. We approach the gate and hail it. Once again, there is no response. Cantrel throws a rope and grapple up to the crenelations over the gate and Pfusand shinnies up to take a look.
She sees two black-robed warriors, facing each other twenty feet apart. She slides down hastily and reports. Tom goes up next, with Pfusand close behind. The warriors seem inanimate. Alag follows up next.
Tom sees a courtyard with a great central tower. Above the entrance to the tower is a wide window. In it stands a man with black robes and black hair. Tom approaches the other side of the gate's walkway for a better view, but the nearer black statue wheels and bars his way with a sword. Tom stops and yells to the figure in the window: "We mean no harm. We seek audience. The Golden Archmage has told us our mission might interest you." This last bit of name-dropping gets a small startle-reaction out of the man, proving that he isn't a statue either. But there's no other response.
Eventually the whole party climbs up the rope or is hauled up by Pfusand, except for Beygar who is too wounded for much adventuring. We leave him to guard the rear. Alag tries to sneak past the statuesque guards but gets knives thrown at him. It takes Cantrel, Wu, Lorelei, and Daewen fighting the two guards to generate enough distraction for the rest of us to slip by, getting and taking pot shots as we go.
As soon as we are ready to descend the gate, six more black warriors come racing out of the central keep, three heading up each watchtower. We shinnied down the ropes while Wu and Cantrel fight a rearguard action. Cantrel puts a Wizard Lock spell on one door and Wu lobs a fireball through the other just as the half dozen warriors come through. On ground level, Tom and Chris slam and bolt the entry doors. All this slows the warriors down, but nothing seems to stop them entirely. One guard JUMPS off the gate, leaving footprints in the flagstones, and attacks Wu. As Tom runs past, the guard chucks a knife at him, but Tom grabs it out of the air. (We'll see what kind of skills are recorded in THIS.) Everyone sprints for the castle except Wu, who eventually succeeds in casting a Sleep on his foe. He only gets drowsy, but he goes completely unconscious from a well-aimed armor from Chris.
Inside, we find a great hall with two sweeping staircases ascending to the level where someone in black stands at the window. Downstairs, Daewen nervously demolishes a suit of armor that turns out to contain no one.
Abruptly, the Black Mage is standing at the head of the stairs. He mounts the banister and walks off it into the air. He doesn't descend. "Whom do I have the honor of addressing?" Pfusand asks politely as Cantrel conjures a magical shield.
"The Master of this house," he answers. He stares disapprovingly at Cantrel's conjurings, wipes away the shield and then, realizing what it is, negligently restores it. Cantrel, in turn, realizes how useless it is, takes it down, sheaths his sword, slicks back his hair, and sighs.
The guards, escaped from their own watchtowers, come thundering up to the door. The Black Mage waves them back. Tom politely explains that we had a very urgent reason for intruding on his privacy. He explains that we are from another continuum -- probably what the Mage would call a "plane" and probably NOT one of the "Nine Worlds" to which the Mage refers. He explains that we fell afoul of the White Mage who took precious and irreplaceable equipment. More importantly, we are strayed from our system of "planes" and must return, as we were engaged in an urgent mission to save them from tyrants -- tyrants who might some day wish to conquer the Nine Worlds.
The Mage thinks all this over, then waves for us to come up the stairs. "Let's talk," he says.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.